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dtellywood 


20 

CENTS 


SPECTATOR 


Eleventh Year 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Volume 


JANUARY 30, 1937 


No. 22 


Ben Schulberg Takes a Poke at 
Medical Profession 

Threat of European Competition 
Becoming Stronger 

Too Much Typing of Players 
a Hollywood Fault 

Editor Moves and It Disturbs 
His Routine 

...REVIEWS... 

SHE'S DANGEROUS *** CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS *** GODS AT PLAY 
A DOCTOR'S DIARY *** MAID OF SALEM *** YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE 
PARK AVENUE LOGGER *** MIDNIGHT COURT *** DANGEROUS NUMBER 

WE'RE ON THE JURY 


THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


January 30, 1937 



From the 





itor’s Easy Chair 


S INCE I wrote a review of A Doctor s Diary, (page 
9), in course of which I predicted the picture would 
cause controversy, I read in the Examiner that already 
doctors are beginning to protest and medical societies 
propose to take action to prevent its release. As the pic- 
ture shows both ethical and racketeer doctors, it follows 
that only the racketeers in the profession have any 
grounds for complaint. The ethical, honest doctor should 
hail it with satisfaction as it exposes those who demean 
their profession by holding their earnings to be of greater 
importance than their curing. A doctor who is unaware 
the practice of medicine has been reduced to a racket 
level by many of those under oath to respect and preserve 
its ethics, is extraordinarily stupid. Ben Schulberg is 
doing both the medical profession and the public a valu- 
able service in throwing a strong light on the dark places 
in medical circles. Some doctors take cruel advantage of 
the reliance and faith their patients are compelled to put 
in them. I have personal knowledge of instances of 
grossly unethical practices by doctors whose names stand 
high in their profession and who treat their patients only 
for the money there is in it. One instance : The doctor 
made a cursory examination of a woman patient; told 
her to have all her teeth extracted at once; gave her the 
card of the dentist he selected and told her what the den- 
tal bill would be. The doctor urged her to go to the 
dentist’s office at once as her condition was grave. 


1 HAT was thirteen years ago. I happened to be with 
the woman’s husband when she telephoned him that she 
was in the dentist’s office and was going to have all her 
teeth extracted. The husband told her to come home 
at once. To-day, the wife, all her teeth intact, is in per- 
pect health. All that ever was the matter with her was 
a slight disposition to nervous headaches. No one with 
ordinary common sense would fail to grasp the fact of 
collusion between the doctor and the dentist for purposes 
of revenue only. Both of them are respected members 
of their profession, still practising in Hollywood. If 
either of them emits even a small squawk against Ben 
Schulberg’s picture, I will supply Ben with his name and 
the name of the patient. At the same time, however, I 
would like to state that some of the finest, upright, hon- 
orable and honest citizens we have are to be found in the 
medical profession. My own doctor is one of the grand- 
est men alive, a person it is a privilege to know, and 


there are others like him. They will not object to A 
Doctor s Diary. It is not about them. It is about those 
who will object. The only distressing feature of the case 
is that the slightest suggestion of a protest will scare 
Will Hays so badly that he probably will line up with 
the protestants. Will has an extraordinary capacity for 
becoming frightened when anyone says “Boo!” to pic- 
tures. In this instance I hope he will have nerve enough 
to stand up for the industry he is paid so handsomely to 
serve. If he brought any courage to his movie job it 
should be in prime condition for use now. It has en- 
joyed a long, undisturbed sleep. 

* * * 

r HE Era, London, in commenting on the difficulty 
English audiences have in understanding the idiomatic 
jargon of the gangsters appearing in American pictures, 
says: “Personally, we never can understand the lousy 
bums.” 

* * * 


TREADING over again Gilbert Seldes’s An Hour with 
ll the Movies and the Talkies, I came across a paragraph 
which supports my view of the screen’s independence of 
the stage. Here it is: “For many years stage people used 
stage material for the movies; and not one single essen- 
tial of the movies has ever been favorably affected by 
the stage ; the stage has contributed nothing lasting to the 
movies. There isn’t a single item of cinema technique 
which requires the experience of the stage; and every 
good thing in the movies has been accomplished either 
in profound indifference to the stage or against the ex- 
perience of the stage.” I do not quote Seldes to show 
what a bright fellow he is or what a bright fellow I am 
by virtue of sharing his views. No other conclusions 
could be arrived at by anyone with ordinary intelligence 
and an inclination to put the screen and stage side by 
side and regard their dissimilarity. Before the talkies 
were old enough to have a book written about them, in 
large letters on the front cover of a Spectator I an- 
nounced, “The Stage Has Nothing to Offer the Screen,” 
and inside the issue I set forth my views at length. I 
believe it was the first time such views were put in print 
anywhere, and they were expressed when Hollywood was 
in the first flurry of its rush to Broadway for plays to 
photograph and stage players to appear in them. Only 
the inherent strength of the screen as the world’s fore- 
most entertainment medium has enabled it to survive its 
contamination by the stage. Occasionally it has stag- 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, 
president; Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars 
the year; two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies 20 cents. Advertising rates on application. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Three 


gered under the weight of Hollywood’s ignorance of its 
true nature, but it has muddled through in spite of the 

brutal treatment accorded it by film producers. 

* * * 

ARNER BROTHERS seem to function better when 
a year is young. In the Spectator of January 18 
last year I reviewed Petrified Forest and Captain Blood, 
two Warner pictures which were among the best released 
last year. In summing up the merits of the Hollywood 
product during the first six months of 1936, I awarded 
top honors to ten pictures. Half of them were made by 
Warners, the two mentioned above and Anthony Adverse, 
The Green Pastures and White Angel. Four of them 
were entrusted by Hal Wallis to Henry Blanke, associ- 
ate producer, Harry Joe Brown having made Captain 
Blood. Now Henry Blanke starts off 1937 with The 
Green Light, reviewed in the last Spectator and which is 
among the best pictures ever made. Blanke it was, too, 
who gave us The Story of Louis Pasteur and Midsummer 
Night's Dream. For the first six months of this year he 
is to give us Danton, Zola, Dreyfuss, Beethoven, Robin 
Hood. The Wallis-Blanke team has an extraordinary 
record of achievement. No other such team in the world 
has to its credit, for the same period of time, such a list 
of outstanding successes as its last year’s product, and I 
know of no other associate producer who has such an 
ambitious program ahead of him as that which Wallis has 
assigned to Blanke. 

* * * 

VOLUME of inestimable value for aspirants to 
careers as writers of screen plays is Four-Star Scripts 
( Doubleday, Doran, $2.50), Lorraine Noble, editor, 
which contains not only intelligent comments on screen 
writing, but, in addition, the complete shooting scripts of 
Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, Little W omen 
and The Story of Louis Pasteur. I cannot express my 
own opinion of its value in better terms than I find on 
the book’s jacket, all of which I endorse: “Aside from its 
value to students of modern motion picture writing, this 
is a book which will be of great assistance to that growing 
legion of amateur movie makers who have tried, or con- 
template trying, to write and produce their own screen 
plays. And the general reader will derive additional 
pleasure from his visits to the movies; he will know how 
the film has been made. Never before has anyone suc- 
ceeded in obtaining the publishing rights to so imposing a 
list of film plays as are contained in Four-Star Scripts. 
Combined with these are the products of Miss Noble’s 
natural ability to write, and the necessary technical 
knowledge to present the subject of scripts for the talkies 
interestingly and comprehensively. Miss Noble’s experi- 
ence was garnered in Hollywood, both as a film editor 

and a purchaser of material for the screen.” 

* * * 

N ALYSIS of the result of Film Daily's poll of the 
film critics of the United States and Canada to de- 
termine the best pictures of 1936, reveals some interesting 
side-lights on the relative merits of the various producing 
organizations. Over five hundred critics voted and the 
results are set forth in the ten-best and the forty-four 
others, in order of the number of votes for each, which 


constitute the “Honor Roll.” As was to be expected, 
Metro’s preponderance of star material gave it an edge 
on the other studios, as reflected in the appearance of four 
of its productions among the ten best and nine among the 
other forty-four. Warner Brothers, with but few out- 
standing stars to attract attention to their product, de- 
pending for votes, therefore, more largely on the intrinsic 
merit of their pictures, also has four among the first ten 
and five on the honor roll. The relative figures for United 
Artists are one and eight; Columbia, with comparatively 
few releases, one and two. With its many releases during 
the year, Twentieth Century managed to have only six 
productions mentioned among the fifty-four important 
ones; Paramount, with even more releases, has five; Uni- 
versal, with comparatively few releases, three. In order 
of merit Century’s first contestant is nineteenth on the 
list. Metro has eight higher on the list, Warners have 
six deemed by the critics to be better than Century’s 
best; Universal two, and United Artists two. Five of 
those placed on the ballot I sent in are among the ten 
best, the other five coming in this order on the honor 
roll: 2nd, 7th, 12th, 20th, 32nd. 

* * * 

T RANGE, the threads of fate! Twenty some odd years 
ago, by the lottery of chance, a two-year old baby was 
rocketed into the heights of screen stardom. He was 
feted, petted, praised, and, in figures of that period, fabu- 
lously paid. Today his early Hollywood glory forgotten, 
he is still “in pictures” but how differently, you may 
judge for yourself. He was known in his stardom as 
“Little Billy”. Keystone organized the “Little Billy 
Studio” for his films. Today he is the associate editor of 
the Spectator. His friends call him Bill. He is known 
as Paul Jacobs. 

* * * 

ENTAL HITHERS-AND-YONS: In 1909 Watty 
Rothacker was managing editor of Billboard , New 
York amusement weekly ; the front cover of one issue was 
a photograph of me; I walked past all the Seattle news 
stands displaying it; thanked Watty for it at dinner at 
Beverly Brown Derby one evening last week. . . . When 
Mrs. Spectator’s dog gets on my lap and looks at me in- 
tently with her big, wise, expressive black eyes, I regret 
exceedingly my inability to speak Pekinese. ... A man I 
admire is the football player who can remain cool enough 
to kick straight when his team needs the extra point to 
win. . . . Only in retrospect should we enjoy a screen per- 
formance; while viewing a picture it should not come to 
us consciously that we are seeing an actor playing a part. 

. . . I nominate for a Nobel prize, Robert Kreis, chef at 
the Beverly Brown Derby, for his creation of what ap- 
pears on the menu as “Stuffed veal cutlet Orloff, glace, 
peas.” A dish for the gods. . . . Four of us met in a 
doorway at El Capitan, A and his wife inbound, B and 
I, side by side, outbound. As all four of us paused, A in- 
troduced B to his wife, looked at me, then introduced me 
also without giving me a name. We had a pleasant chat. 
I had no idea who any of them were. I merely was try- 
ing to get outside for a smoke between acts. ... I would 
like to see John Eldredge more frequently in the sympa- 






Page Four 


January 30, 1937 


thetic parts he plays so well. . . . Thirty-five years ago I 
reported international field trials for Forest and Stream, 
New York; watched the most famous setters from U. S. 
and Canadian kennels at work in the open, one of the 
most enjoyable jobs in my career as reporter. . . . Bobbie, 
intellectual, writer of books; P. H., her husband, success- 
ful business man, civic leader, phoned us they were at a 
Los Angeles hotel. We were delighted ; hadn’t seen them 
for years. Their first visit to Hollywood. Quick phoning 
to studios to arrange for their meeting stars on sets. Lunch 
at Brown Derby. No interest whatever in studios or 
stars ; wanted to see only us. Bet Bobbie a pair of gloves 
that before she left town she would be in love with a 
movie actor. She laughed me to scorn. Took them out 
to Carl Spitz’s place in San Fernando valley, introduced 
Buck, magnificent St. Bernard actor, to Bobbie; Carl 
directed Buck to act as if he were her dog. This morn- 
ing the mailman brought me a nice pair of gloves. 

* * * 

F ROM the Examiner gossip column: “Douglas Mont- 
gomery’s many friends welcoming him after an absence 
of over a year at Helen Ferguson’s cocktail party.” 
Hollywood is noted for guests who do not know when to 
go home, but when Doug stays at one party over a year 
— well, really, someone should speak to him about it. 
Someone also should suggest to Helen that she divide 
her parties into six months shifts to allow her to get some 
sleep. This marathon thing is pretty well played out, 
and, anyway, there are available few prospective guests 
sturdy enough to stick it out for over a year on a diet of 
nothing but cocktails and Hollywood conversation. The 
fact of Doug’s having done it merely points to him as the 
exception that proves the rule; he should be given the 
prize for endurance and we should be permitted to forget 
the whole thing. 

* * * 

r HE box-office value of a picture must be, in the long 
run, in ratio to its adherence to the fundamental prin- 
ciples of the art of which it is a unit. The basic appeal of 
a picture gets its strength from the degree in which it 
observes cinematic laws. Given any permissible theme and 
made in reasonable length, a picture which strictly obeys 
the laws must have general appeal. Not all, of course, 
would have the divine spark of greatness, but none would 
be an artistic failure, and with appropriate themes and 
care exercised in applying to them the laws of the art, 
there should be no financial failures. 

* * * 

C LASS B pictures form the bulk of the output of major 
studios, but they do not receive the consideration their 
commercial importance demands. Under the block-book- 
ing system their producers are assured a profit on them 
before they are released and exhibitors have to carry' the 
burden of their lack of box-office draw. Some day a wise 
producer is going to realize the potentialities of his class 
B pictures, put the best brains in his organization on 
them and steal a march on his competitors. It may be a 
long grind, but eventually he will make his trademark 
mean so much to the public that he will not have to rely 
on big names as a box-office asset. The public buys auto- 
mobiles on the strength of their makers’ names. There is 


no fundamental difference between marketing automobiles 
and marketing motion pictures. “An Atlas Picture” can 
be made to mean as much on a theatre marquee as “A 
General Motors Car” means in an automobile advertise- 
ment. For all the scores of millions of dollars it has spent 
on exploitation throughout the years, the name Metro- 
Goldwyn-Mayer has less box-office value than that of 
Robert Taylor. A Taylor picture gets its importance 
from Bob’s name. If the film industry conducted its af- 
fairs on sound business principles, Bob would be impor- 
tant because of his appearance in a Metro picture, and 
the picture, not Bob, would be the thing of box-office 
value. 

* * * 

O NE bit of evidence indicating increased interest through- 
. out the country in the study of the screen is the con- 
stant demand for my book, Know Your Movies. It is 
out of print. After the first edition was printed the 
plates were destroyed. I was disappointed with it in spite 
of the generous things said about it by book reviewers. 
The editions sold out, more because of the lack of such 
books than by virtue of the merits of mine. As soon as 
I can find the time, I will make an effort to write another 
which will more nearly satisfy me. In the meantime this 
paragraph will serve as notice that there are no more 
copies of Know Your Movies available. 

m m m 

NIFERSAL is said to be preparing a story with an 
operatic background for Deanna Durbin’s second pic- 
ture. I suppose it is inevitable — the child can sing, there- 
fore she must be presented as a singer in a grand opera 
atmosphere, even though no grand opera presents one of 
its characters as a singer. The strength of Adele Coman- 
dini’s story, Three Smart Girls, Deanna’s current success, 
lies in her characterization as merely a child who is tak- 
ing singing lessons. That is as far toward grand opera as 
a picture should go. But it should go in the other direc- 
tion — it should present singers without mentioning their 
singing. To give Deanna Durbin an opera house back- 
ground is a mistake. 

* * * 

HEN Billy and Bobby Mauck, identical twins, ap- 
pear in The Prince and the Pauper, it will be the 
first time in the history of the stage or the screen, as far 
as I am able to discover, that twins played together in 
parts calling for a perfect resemblance. 

* * • 

HIS from the Motion Picture Herald: “Official word 
came this week from the WPA of an expected drastic 
reduction in the federal theatre project, which has been 
taking some 425,000 potential customers away from film 
theatres every week — a potential loss of $2,420,000 to mo- 
tion picture box-offices.” Motion pictures themselves are 
responsible for the loss of their 425,000 customers; the 
federal theatre project did not take them away from pic- 
ture houses. It merely caught them when pictures failed 
to hold them. Instead of viewing with satisfaction the 
elimination of competition, the film industry should wel- 
come it and make its product entertaining enough to hold 
its audience in spite of all counter attractions. 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


Writing Reviews with Many Interruptions 


Drama and a Toggle Bolt 

SHE'S DANGEROUS, Universal picture. Directed by Lewis R. 
Foster and Milton Carruth; associate producer, E. M. Asher; orig- 
inal story by Murray Roth and Ben Ryan; screen play, Lionel Houser 
and Albert R. Perkins; photographer, Milton Krasner, A.S.C.; art 
direction, Jack Otterson; associate director, Loren Pattrick; film 
editor, Frank Gross; musical director, Lou Forbes; special effects, 
John P. Fulton; sound supervisor, Homer G. Tasker. Cast: Tala 
Birell, Walter Pidgeon, Cesar Romero, Walter Brennan, Warren 
Hymer, Samuel S. Hinds, Jonathon Hale, Richard Carle, Franklyn 
Pangborn, Richard Tucker, June Brewster, Stanley Andrews. 

O UT of Universal City comes another good one, a 
crime-and-punishment drama with no outstanding 
box-office names in its cast, but with far more merit than 
usually is found in ambitious star offerings. To me the 
most arresting feature of She's Dangerous is the perfor- 
mance of Tala Birell. If I ever saw her before, it must 
have been in some role which gave her personality and 
ability little opportunity to register. Whatever it is that 
Greta Garbo has, Tala Birell has also — some inner qual- 
ity that makes her distinctive, a suggestion of power, a 
sense of drama, of latent emotional resources which give 
us the impression she still has much in reserve even when 
she plays her most dramatic scenes. We see her first when 
she enters a night club. There are perhaps a dozen others 
in the scene, and although she does nothing to attract at- 
tention to herself, her personality is so strong the 
audience will feel instinctively she is to play the lead- 
ing part. 

(I might as well confess here that I am writing this re- 
view under great difficulties. Mrs. Spectator, the dogs 
and I only this morning moved into our new San Fer- 
nando Valley home. After much searching I found my 
writing pad in a bucket on the back porch and my foun- 
tain pen in the pocket of an old smoking jacket I have 
not worn for years. Digging down through bedding and 
drapes and being severely scolded for the mess I made, I 
came to my easy chair and settled myself for action, only 
to discover there was no ink in my pen. I remembered 
packing the ink, but where? Well, you have moved and 
you know how it is. In looking for it I came across my 
library hangings and thought I might as well hang them. 
Under the last one I found a box in which the ink bottle 
was keeping company with a lot of laundry supplies. I 
know I did not put it there, but, anyway, I filled my pen, 
dug my chair again out of a lot of things I had piled on 
it in looking for the ink, set to work, wrote the opening 
paragraph; then the men brought the ice-box. Quite a 
sight — a giant’s jewel case, severe, dignified, chaste. I 
watched the ceremony of installation, am back in my 
chair and trying to recall my reactions to the Universal 
picture I saw last night. Heigh ho!) 

T 

M HE motivation of the story lies in the murder of Jon- 
athan Hale by Cesar Romero, and the latter’s fastening 
of the crime on Tala Birell. It is sound story construc- 
tion in that the audience knows all the circumstances and 


only to the law authorities is the solution of the crime 
shrouded in mystery. By good writing and expert direc- 
tion, suspense is maintained throughout, reaching a tense 
climax in the closing sequence. The story ends sharply 
on Tala’s dramatic last-minute reprieve which comes 
after she has entered the death chamber. 

(Excuse me for a moment. As I glance out the window 
I see that Bo Peep, Mrs. Spectator’s Pekinese, and 
Arthur, my spaniel, are on the back lawn, having a tug- 
of-war with what looks to me from this distance like a 
pair of my suspenders. ... It was. I gave them an old 
sweater. When they finish with it I will go out and rake 
it up.) 

Cesar Romero and Walter Pidgeon play the two lead- 
ing roles. Romero’s characterization of the master crim- 
inal is forceful and chilling, a really brilliant perfor- 
mance. Pidgeon, always the gracious, handsome, plaus- 
ible actor, has a part which is tailored to his measure. 
Walter Brennan gives us another of his skilfully etched 
characterizations, and Warren Hymer — 

(A bakery wagon merchant just then lured me down 
the driveway to his supply of eatables. I bought some 
baked beans, a pie and some flat-looking things. When 
I deposited them on the kitchen sink I could not recall 
what the salesman had told me the flat-looking things 
were made of, so we don’t know when to eat them. Oh, 
well, there are Arthur and Bo Peep.) 

VI ARREN HYMER plays his usual dumb role. I be- 
lieve for the sake of his own career and that of the pic- 
tures in which he appears, he should be permitted to play 
something else. Typing players is fundamentally unsound. 
When we first see a character on the screen we should 
not know what kind of part he is to play. Characteri- 
zations should be developed by the picture in which the 
player is appearing at the moment, not by all those in 
which he has appeared previously. Hollywood carries 
typing to such an extent that a list of the players appear- 
ing in a picture almost is a synopsis of the story the pic- 
ture is to tell. I have in mind El Brendel. A long time 
ago he gave an excellent characterization of a Swedish 
dialect comedian. He was good in the part, not because 
he is a Swede — which he is not — but becauuse he is an 
excellent actor. His first success sealed his doom. It 
seems strange to me that we have no producer with 
brains enough to grasp the fact that El Brendel in an en- 
tirely different part would be a novelty which would en- 
hance the entertainment quality of a picture. One could 
make a list of scores of other players to whom the same 
thing applies. 

I am aware that this review is somewhat rambling, 
but there is so much going around me that I find it dif- 
ficult to keep my mind on the main job. During the 
present temporary lull we will get back to She’s Danger- 
ous. There are several interesting points it suggests. It 
has its good and bad points, the good predominating to 


Page Six 


January 30, 1937 


make it engrossing entertainment worth the seeing if you 
can enjoy another screen story about robbery and murder. 
The production is adequate, the settings reflecting the 
progress Jack Otterson is making toward recognition as 
an outstanding art director. 

QeVERAL years ago it was when I first expressed my 
views on the manner in which, under some circumstances, 
singing voices should be presented on the screen. What 
1 meant is demonstrated in She’s Dangerous. Walter 
Pidegon is presented as a doctor, not as a singer. In one 
of the few spots in the picture suggesting a domestic 
atmosphere — 

(At that juncture two men came to install the tele- 
phone. They disturbed me because I wanted the phone 
placed on a small gate-leg table beside my easy chair, as 
I am lazy and object to going elsewhere to use it. I 
learned one of the men was named Arthur because he 
answered when I called my dog. He called the other Bob, 
so for the past hour I have Arthur and Bob on my hands. 
Anyway, I could not proceed with my writing when they 
had to work where my chair sets, so I sort of superin- 
tended the job. For the first time in my life I met a 
toggle bolt. When you wish to affix anything to a plaster 
wall and can not find wood behind the plaster where you 
want to fasten the thing, you are out of luck if you have 
no doodle bug — I mean, toggle bolt. It has two folding 
steel prongs which, when folded close to the bolt, go 
through the hole you drill through the plaster, and spring 
open when it gets inside, finally gripping the plaster tight- 
ly when the bolt is screwed in all the way. Quite a gad- 
get. Now I am back in my chair, my phone at my elbow 
— but where was I ?) 

M 

If I } stopping point was domestic atmosphere. Walter 
sits at the piano and begins to strum. Tala asks him to 
sing a certain song again, thus, incidentally, registering 
that there had been other such domestic scenes. Walter 
sings in that rich baritone voice we hear far too infre- 
quently from the screen. That he is just a doctor singing, 
not a vocal artist performing, is suggested by Tala’s 
action in wandering from the room to the porch, and 
Walter’s action in ceasing his singing and following her. 
This treatment is cinematically sound in that the inter- 
polated song is not allowed to check the forward progress 
of the story, is not allowed to give us as much of Walter’s 
voice as we would wish for. This makes the scene authen- 
tic by creating the impression that we are looking at an 
occurrence in real life and not at something staged for our 
entertainment. 

On the debit side we have a few scenes in which the 
dialogue is not directed properly, the fault being em- 
phasized by the general excellence of all the rest of the 
direction, the joint work of Lewis Foster and Milton 
Carruth being most creditable. After killing Hale, 
Romero goes to the Newark Airport and there in a loud 
voices discusses with Hymer their chances of eluding the 
police. In Pidgeon’s mountain cabin, Romero does not 
lower his voice when talking with Tala about Pidgeon, 


even though Pidgeon is in the next room and dire conse- 
quences would result if Romero were overheard. 

I have said in these columns many times before, all 
the drama latent in the plotting of two criminals is not 
brought out if the tone of their voices suggests they are 
indifferent to the possibility of their being overheard. 
None of the scenes of which I complain develops half 
its dramatic possibilities. Loud talking, as such — 

(I had forgotten about Bob and Arthur, the phone 
man, not the dog. Arthur came in just then to test the 
phone and while he waited for something to be done at 
the other end, we had a smoke and a chat. The little 
tin box which the toggle bolt holds onto the side of the 
house has wires running from it to a steel rod driven into 
the ground. In case an electric company’s wire comes in 
contact with a telephone wire, the current of electricity 
is carried into the ground instead of putting your phone 
out of business. The toggle-bolted wire also serves as a 
lighting rod and will protect your house if the bolt of 
lightning hits near it. It is not there for that purpose, but 
will do the work if it is in the line of attack, the tele- 
phone company giving no free long distance service in the 
way of lightning protection. After Arthur left, I was 
settling down to work again when Mrs. Spectator came 
into the library with a hat in her hand and told me she 
wished I would get into the habit of hanging up my 
things. It is so long since I wore a hat that I could not 
recall having worn the one she had, but I tossed it onto 
a high shelf in a closet, and then Bob bobbed in and asked 
if we had seen his hat. Our collapsible step-ladder fin- 
ally was found prostrate under a pile of bedding, set up 
and the hat retrieved from the closet shelf. I asked Bob 
if it were his, and he said it was and he left after thank- 
ing us and giving me a toggle bolt. I believe Arthur and 
Bob have gone permanently.) 

LoUD talking, as such, never is objectionable in scenes 
which demand it. Scenes in which lines which should be 
read in low tones, are spoken loudly, do not irritate an 
audience by virtue of the excess volume of noise. They 
offend because the loudness is not consistent with what 
should be the moods of the scenes. The yolk of a boiled 
egg, for instance, is really a beautiful thing of rich 
golden color, but on a man’s vest it is disgusting. 

There is another incident in She's Dangerous that 
prompts worthwhile discussion. Tala Birell goes to the 
apartment of Jonathan Hale to report that she has worked 
her way into the confidence of Romero, who is suspected 
of having engineered the theft of valuable bonds. Hale 
opens the door to her, escorts her through a room to one 
beyond, and there they confer. Romero picks up her 
trail, and finally comes along a corridor to the door in 
which the conference is taking place; he stands before 
the closed door and overhears what is said inside the 
room. Here we have a violation of one of the funda- 
mental rules of all arts — that no art creation should 
prompt a question it does not answer. Why did Tala go 
from the corridor to a room beyond the one she first en- 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


tered, if the purpose was to place her where Romero 
could overhear her? Why — 

(Why am I interrupted constantly? Why should I be 
held responsible for the disappearance of the box with the 
shower curtains and bath mats in it? I distinctly remem- 
ber putting it under the bed in the front bedroom and if 
it isn’t there now it’s not my fault. That box? Oh, 
that’s one with something light in it that I have been 
standing on to hang my pictures. All right, go ahead and 
open it. I’ll never get the Spectator written at this rate. 
So the bath things were in the box, were they? How was 
I supposed to know that? I tell you I put it under the 
bed in the front room.) 


fr HY — well, why what? What question did I have in 
mind ? Let us start again. How did Romero know where 
to go? There is nothing in the picture to indicate he had 
previous knowledge of Hale’s apartment. And why all 
the movement involved in taking Tala through one room 
to another when it would be inevitable that the audience 
would ask how Romero found the right door at which to 
listen? The listening, too, suggests another fundamental 
point that applies to all screen creations. Romero is 
shown, in semi close-up, standing outside the door listen- 
ing to what is said within. 

The camera is the eye of the audience; the microphone 
is the ear of the audience. The audience always is as 
near the player as the camera is when the scene is shot. 
When we see a big close-up of a player, following a long 
shot in which he is but one small figure, we do not get 
the impression that he has increased in size, but merely 
the feeling that we have moved closer to him. Thus the 
camera moves us into and out of scenes. When Romero 
stands — 


(Excuse me. ... I agreed with the man at the door 
that the hedge needed trimming, and I told him to trim it. 
We walked all over the garden, and he certainly knows 
things about flowers and shrubs. I left him starting to 
put everything in shape after telling his small daughter, 
who was with him, to hurry home and tell her mother he 
had a job. The little girl’s name is Maggie.) 

w 

rf HEN Romero stands outside the door, the audience 
is standing so close to him that it must hear anything he 
hears, even though not quite so distinctly. But the audi- 
ence does not hear a word spoken within the room ; does 
not imagine Romero is hearing anything, but when he en- 
ters the room it is revealed that he had overheard the 
confidences exchanged in ordinary conversational tones by 
Tala and Hale. He shoots Hale and to incriminate Tala, 
leaves a photograph of her on the floor besides the corpse. 
At the subsequent trial of the two for murder, the photo- 
graph is accepted as proof of Tala’s guilt, and the fact 
that the fatal bullet was fired from Romero’s gun con- 
demns him. How a jury could conclude that the girl was 
foolish enough to engage in a murder and leave her photo- 
graph beside the victim, is something else an audience 
would question. 

(I give up. Since writing the above, Arthur, the 
spaniel, and I went back to where we came from in an 


effort to solve the mj'stery of the disappearance of the pink 
blanket. We were unsuccessful. I was unaware that we 
ever had possessed a pink blanket, and, in any event, there 
seems to be so many heaps of bedding on the floor now 
that the loss or addition of one blanket would be a matter 
of no importance, although I confess a pink one would 
add a touch of gaiety to the heap I can see outside my 
door. I have troubles of my own now. I can’t find the 
screwdriver. I discovered its disappearance after I had 
returned from a fruitless search for Arthur. No one had 
seen him since we got back from the trip in search of the 
blanket. If you have lost a dog you know how distressing 
the feeling is. All of us were heartbroken at the thought 
of the poor little fellow vainly trying to find his way back 
to his new home in a locale strange to him. I walked all 
over the neighborhood, calling his name. One woman 
who heard me asked me what my little boy looked like. 
I caught only part of her question and when I told her he 
was red and white and had long ears, she looked at me in 
a funny sort of way. It was then I recalled that she had 
said something about a little boy. After eating a sand- 
wich in the kitchen I assured Mrs. Spectator that Arthur 
would turn up all right, that I would drive all over the 
valley until I found him. I went out to the car and found 
him asleep on the back seat ; and now, if I only could find 
the screwdriver. My toggle bolt is quite useless without 
the cooperation of a screwdriver.) 


A Lesson from Overseas 

CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS. Produced by the Films Sonores Tobis; 
from the story by Charles Spaak; screen play by Bernard Zimmer; 
directed by Jacques Feyder; presented at the Four Star Theatre. 
Cast: Francoise Rosay, Alerme, Jean Murat, Micheline Cheirel, 
Bernard Lancret, Alfred Adam. 

117 HEN we provincial Hollywood people wish to say 
rr anything complimentary about a picture made abroad, 
we remark, “In some respects it is fully up to the Holly- 
wood standard.” If France sends us many more trivial 
comedies told as wittily and mounted as handsomely as 
Carnival in Flanders, perhaps some day we can boast that 
one of ours “in some respects is fully up to the French 
standard.” Over here we grade our productions accord- 
ing to the literary magnitude of the stories. It never 
would occur to us to hang royal trappings on a bedroom 
farce. It would cost too much money. The French pro- 
ducers made the Flanders story important by the simple 
means of giving it an important production, by telling an 
old story in glamorous pictorial language, casting it per- 
fectly and giving it expert direction so nicely shaded that 
immorality becomes amusing and bad taste is refined by 
a cleansing sense of humor. 

If the insane people who rule the destinies of European 
countries do not plunge the continent into another gen- 
eral war, the development of picture making over there 
will become a real threat to the world dominance of the 
American film industry. Prior to the outbreak of the 
World War in 1914, Europe was making vast strides in 
improving the quality of its screen entertainment. The 
best pictures shown in this country were those which came 
to us from European studios, Italy, especially, sending us 
several imposing productions as good for their day as any- 


Page Eight 


January 30, 1937 


thing Hollywood has made since. At that time our pro- 
ductions were pale imitations of what Europe sent us. 

T HE World War gave the United States its chance. 
The European threat was dissipated and while the guns 
roared over there, the American film industry gained the 
world film market so completely that Europe thus far has 
been able to regain only a little of its lost ground. But 
it is not licked. With a fundamentally sound artistic 
sense developed by centuries of cultivation, with limitless 
possibilities in the way of scenic backgrounds to bring the 
old world to the new, and, above all, without the rever- 
ence we in this country have for the money god, Europe 
is in a strong position to make it difficult for Hollywood 
to retain its leadership. 

A business which derives its revenue from the sale of 
the creations of an art but considers its revenue as of more 
importance than the art, can not meet the competition of 
an industry which has the reverse sense of values. Holly- 
wood’s greatest weakness is its refusal to recognize screen 
entertainment as a member of the family of arts. Those 
who dominate our film industry regard pictures solely as 
articles of commerce upon which they have a virtual cor- 
ner, and with which they can become rich by paying 
themselves preposterous salaries and voting themselves 
equally preposterous bonuses out of moneys belonging to 
the stockholders of their companies. Over in Europe the 
existence of an art of the cinema was recognized more 
than a quarter of a century ago, and the present growing 
activity in picture production is based upon it. 

AnOTHER factor in the advantage Europe has over 
us is its patience. It is not in a hurry. To show it how, 
by investing a dollar in pictures now, it can earn dividends 
twenty years hence to justify the investment, is all the 
Old World asks. Hollywood will invest a dollar now 
only if assured of dividends tomorrow. Mussolini is de- 
termined to make Italy the motion picture center of the 
world. He thinks in terms of decades, not of days. Prove 
to him that he can not attain his objective in his lifetime, 
and he will go ahead without pause. After him will be 
Italy still, and it is Italy, not himself, that matters. 

(Of course, you are wondering what all this has to do 
with a review of Carnival in Flanders. I am wondering 
myself. I seem to have become lost. The library hang' 
ings which I put up yesterday, as related in the preceding 
review, were all wrong and as I was nicely under way 
with Flanders, a drapery man came in and did everything 
over again, and there was I, in my easy chair in the cor- 
ner, trying to ignore his presence and go ahead as if the 
company of a tall, baldheaded, taciturn man with hairy 
arms and an extraordinarily long screwdriver, were a 
standard aid to literary concentration. As I read back, 
I conclude I must have forgotten what I was writing 
about and veered off on a tour of Europe, but just where 
I left the main trail I have not been able to determine. 
The thing seems rather connected, to my way of think- 
ing, but I concede it is a rather queer review of a 
picture.) 

Anyway, we are in Italy, even though we do not 
know how we got there. Silvano Balboni, well known 


here and now on the staff of the Italian Director General 
of Cinematography, writes me about activities over there, 
one of his comments being: “The thing that’s sure is that 
quite good films are now made in Italy and undoubtedly 
much better productions will come out of this country in 
the near future when the new studios will be completed. 
They are due to operate in April.” 

A nation already with some notable films to its credit, 
with the energy and ability of II Duce behind it, which 
deems motion pictures important enough to be sponsored 
by the national government, whose history largely is a 
record of development of the fine arts — there is a nation 
that will offer stiff competition to any other trying to 
outdo it in producing screen entertainment. Flanders is 
only an intimation of what we may expect from France, 
which previously has sent us other worthy films. Middle 
Europe, whence came Ecstasy, the only motion picture 
with audible dialogue that I have seen in years, may be 
expected eventually to invade the American market and 
thereafter to figure largely in it. 

One advantage the scattered film industry of Europe 
has over our concentrated American set-up, is that abroad 
the picture money is put on the screen and not so much of 
it goes for player and executive salaries. Another advan- 
tage Europe has — the one which eventually will count 
most — is that across the Atlantic they recognize there is 
such a thing as an art of the screen and allow considera- 
tion of it to influence production. Their theory is that 
no one appearing in a picture can be as important as the 
picture itself. Over here we have the reverse theory: 
There is no art, money is king and a star is a god. 

iP ERHAPS, before I conclude this review of Carnival 
in Flanders, it might be as well if I reviewed it. I be- 
lieve in the old-fashioned school of thought which holds 
the view that the thing criticized should be referred to 
occasionally in a criticism of it. Of course, I could ex- 
press here some constructive thoughts which occurred to 
me as I listened to the broadcast of the President’s mes- 
sage to Congress; I could discuss the economic effect on 
the United States of another general war in Europe, and 
make a rather shrewd guess as to the outcome of the 
Perry-Vines series of tennis matches — even perhaps sug- 
gest a wise investment in chances on the Santa Anita 
Handicap — but I think it would be better if I stuck to 
my main job and wrote my review of the French picture. 
It is one you should see. There, thank heaven, is another 
job completed. 

(Lucky I finished my review just then. As I penned 
the last words, Florence and Parker, young friends of 
ours, dropped in to see our new home. Florence brought 
some fascinating dish towels and Parker brought a duck. 
There is something about the starboard-to-port waddle 
of a duck and his general air of philosophical concentra- 
tion, which always has appealed to me, enlisting my in- 
terest as no dish towel yet has succeeded in doing. Mrs. 
Spectator put away the towels — they are too nice to wipe 
dishes with — and christened the duck “Alexander.” She 
always has had an ambition to own a pet called Alex- 
ander. I was too exhausted after concentrating on my re- 
view of Flanders to raise the question as to whose prop- 
erty the duck is, but when the gift-bearers departed I car- 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


ried Alexander out to the back lawn and made acquaint- 
ance overtures to him as he waddled around evaluating 
the advantages of his new home. I now am in the market 
for a tutor who will teach me how to groom and feed a 
duck. I know he likes water, so I dug a hole in the lawn, 
sunk a wash-tub in it, and am exhausted again. Luckily 
I had laid in a stock of chopped grain to lure birds to 
our place; I gave Alexander a dish of it, and left him 
scooping up, not at all daintily, great quantities of it. 
Just a moment, please — the telephone. . . . The young 
people again. The duck’s name is Alexandra. As I look 
out the window I see Arthur and Bo Peep trying to edge 
close enough to smell her.) 

It Strikes a New Note 

THE GODS AT PLAY {Amphitryon). Production, Gunther Stapen- 
horst. Released in France by Alliance Cinematographique Euro- 
penee. Scenario and direction, Reinhold Schunrel and Albert Val- 
entin; music, Francois Doelle; dialogue and songs, Serge Veber; 
supervision, Raoul Ploquin. Cast: Henry Garat, Armand Bernad, 
Jeanne Boitel, Odette Florelle, Marguerite Moreno. 


am aware only that it is a perfect contribution to the sum 
total of perfection the production attains. 

Staccato dialogue and sustained speeches alike are given 
the same musical treatment, except that in places the 
longer speeches are sung. The wedding of words and 
music is so complete, the singing is absorbed evenly and 
naturally into the forward flow of the story until we are 
unaware of anything illogical in a group of people carry- 
ing on a conversation in song. It is grand opera made in- 
timate, except that in grand opera the music is of most 
importance and in this picture the dialogue is the element 
of primary interest, the music being an unobtrusive back- 
ground. Gods at Play should have an influence on both 
the screen and grand opera; on the screen principally, of 
course, because it displays a greater appreciation of the 
proper place of music in pictures than any of our Holly- 
wood score composers have been permitted to display. We 
have great musicians here, but they are not allowed to 
write great picture scores as producers lack the patience 
it would require to secure the proper synchronization of 
score and films. 


O LYMPUS and Juno, his shrewish wife, do not look 
so good to Jupiter when he looks down on ancient 
Thebes and sees a beautiful woman, so he and Mercury 
take a parachute drop to Earth and play the devil with 
the tranquility of the Thebean home of Amphitryon and 
his wife, Alcmene. There you have another trivial story 
which has been done into screen entertainment by bril- 
liant French screen artists. If you miss The Gods at 
Play, now running at the Grand International, you will 
be doing yourself a grave injustice. If your interest be in 
pictures, you can learn more from this one than from any 
other talkie ever made in this country or coming to us 
from abroad. It is not solely a lesson in picture making. 
It is excellent entertainment. When Jupiter scans the 
world below, Mercury says there is no use looking at 
America as it will not be discovered for four thousand 
years yet, and from there to the end the production strikes 
a joyous note. 

The dialogue is in French and is translated in several 
times the number of superimposed titles we generally see 
in foreign-tongue pictures. This makes it easy to follow 
the story. A magnificent mounting is given it, scenes of 
Thebes being on a grand scale, and great crowds of extras 
keep the screen alive. The performances are flawless, the 
players preserving admirably the mood the story estab- 
lishes in the first sequence. Direction is as good as any 
we have over here ; the screen play is a fine piece of screen 
writing. 

all the merits I have pointed out sink into insig- 
nificance when compared with the musical treatment given 
the production. It has what without question is the finest 
score ever written for a photoplay, one which opens a new 
vista of the part music can play in a screen creation. Dia- 
logue and music are synchronized so perfectly that in the 
majority of scenes, each word spoken falls on a down beat 
of music ; thus speeches are given a lilting quality that 
will fascinate an audience. I do not know how the score 
would sound if played apart from its scenic accompani- 
ment, nor am I aware how much merit it has as music ; I 


Ben Schulberg’s Good One 

A DOCTOR'S DIARY, Paramount release of B. P. Schulberg pro- 
duction. Features George Bancroft, Helen Burgess, John Trent, 
Ruth Coleman and Ra Hould. Directed by Charles Vidor; screen 
play by David Boehm; story by Samuel Orniti and Joseph An- 
thony; photographed by Harry Fischbeclt; art direction, Albert 
D'Agostino; musical direction, Boris Morros; film editor, Richard C. 
Currier; assistant director, Ray Lissner. Supporting cast: Molly 
Lamont, Sidney Blaclcmer, Charles D. Waldron, Frank Puglia, Mil- 
burn Stone, Sue Carol. Running time, 75 minutes. 

O NE of my opinions which Rob Wagner, in his Script, 
accuses me of “riding to death,” by my persistence is 
that the screen is not an acting art, that it is not an art of 
projecting emotions by the voice; that it is one of using 
the camera to draw the audience near enough to the play- 
ers to hear their whispers and see their emotions expressed 
in their eyes. If my theory be right, and I claim it is 
based on the necessity of obedience to the laws of screen 
art if its creations are to achieve the ultimate in artistic 
and commercial success — if I be right, the stage can not 
serve as a satisfactory recruiting ground for screen talent. 
After seeing A Doctor s Diary, I can point to one straw 
which shows I have been blowing in the right direction. 

We read almost every day of some studio official flying 
to New York in search of new picture talent, even though 
on his way to the airport he has to drive carefully to avoid 
running over talent already here. I am not aware what 
Ben Schulberg was looking for when he made the trip, 
but he came back with an aviator whom he presents as 
leading man is A Doctor s Diary. John Trent has every- 
thing the screen needs. Stalwart, handsome, an engaging 
personality, a good voice, an aptitude for being the person 
he plays, the impression he makes in his first picture is 
completely satisfactory, his easy, finished performance 
making it safe to predict for him a highly successful screen 
career. Unfortunately his first appearance is marred by 
something he will have to live down — a totally unneces- 
sary drunken scene which takes him completely out of 
character and is not consistent with the mood of the story. 
It loses for him the respect his earnestness and devotion 


Page Ten 


January 30, 1937 


to his medical duties has earned, and suggests he is, after 
all, weak enough to get drunk again as soon as he can 
find the time. Never have I seen in any picture a more 
gratuitous undermining of a carefully developed char- 
acterization. 

T 

i HE production is bound to provoke controversy, with 
the medical profession as the protestant. Vividly it por- 
trays how completely the public is at the mercy of those 
upon whom it must depend for the curing of its physical 
ills, and openly charges that at least some doctors have 
more regard for the ethics of their profession than for the 
lives of those whose fees support it. Sue Carol, who 
plays a small bit with dramatic impressiveness, dies on the 
operating table because no other doctor will take the 
place of the one whose patient she is and who is delayed in 
his arrival at the hospital. That is the first indictment of 
the medical profession. Several others follow. 

Another instance of professional neglect eventuates in a 
suit for damages against the offending doctor. The trial 
scene is directed admirably by Charles Vidor and acted 
splendidly by all those who appear in it, but it is here that 
the story begins to wabble and leave us up in the air. The 
hero stultifies himself by compromising with his conscience 
in giving his testimony, is shot in the shoulder by the 
plaintiff, and we are not informed as to the result of the 
trial or what happened to the shooter. But the important 
thing about A Doctor’s Diary is that it is a picture well 
worth seeing. Ben Schulberg has given it a production 
which in itself will engage your close attention. It fairly 
reeks of ether, a great deal of the action taking place in 
operating rooms. Owing to Vidor’s skilful direction we 
get the impression of technical authenticity in the de- 
piction of hospital routine. That is a valuable element 
of direction — sincerity which in itself make us accept, as 
being done accurately, things we never before have seen 
done and of which we know nothing. Vidor did his job 
really brilliantly and it should earn him other important 
assignments. 

George Bancroft gives an excellent performance, as 
does Helen Burgess, an appealing and talented young 
woman. A boy, Ra Hauld, proves himself a born actor. 
His mother is played feelingly by Molly Lamont. Sidney 
Blackmer, always one of the screen’s most dependable 
players, gives another of the thoughtful, convincing per- 
formances we can expect when we see his name in a cast. 
Harry Fischbeck’s photography is of the best. 

Lloyd and Estabrook 

MAID OF SALEM, Paramount. Producer, Howard Estabrook; 
director, Frank Lloyd; original, Bradley King; screen play, Walter 
Ferris, Bradley King and Durwood Grinstead; photographer, Leo 
Tover; musical director, Boris Morros; original music, Victor Young; 
art directors, Hans Dreier and Bernard Henbrun; costumes, Travis 
Banton; assistant director, William Tummel. Cast; Claudette Col- 
bert, Fred MacMurray, Harvey Stephens, Gale Sondergaard, Louise 
Dresser, Bennie Bartlett, Edward Ellis, Beulah Bondi, Bonita Gran- 
ville, Virginia Weidler, Donald Meek, E. E. Clive, Halliwell Hobbes, 
Pedro de Cordoba, Madame Sul-te-wan, Lucy Beaumont, Henry 
Kolker, William Farnum, Ivan Simpson, Brandon Hurst, Sterling Hol- 
loway, Zeffie Tilbury, Babs Nelson, Mary Treen, J. Farrell Mac- 
Donald, Stanley Fields, Lionel Belmore, Guy Bates Post. 


AN exceedingly well done job. Regarded solely as a 
/m specimen of the work Hollywood turns out, Maid of 
Salem must rank high among the most meritorious pro- 
ductions of any season. Howard Estabrook has given it 
a setting authentic as to detail in interiors and costuming 
and which brings to the screen the actual locale in which 
the story is laid. To its credit also is the fact that the 
story itself is strictly accurate history. Extreme care was 
taken and considerable expense incurred in exhaustive re- 
search to establish as a fact of history every incident 
shown on the screen which had a direct bearing on the 
theme of the story. Frank Lloyd, with many notable pic- 
tures to his credit, never has given us a more finished bit 
of direction. In all phases of the story he is equally at 
home, from the playfulness of children to the stark hor- 
ror of the tree on Gallows Hill. And from the members 
of his distinguished cast he derives evenly excellent per- 
formances. 

So if screen craftsmanship in itself has box-office value, 
Maid of Salem is destined to enjoy a successful box-office 
career. If honest presentation of the facts recorded on one 
of the darkest pages of United States history lacks ele- 
ments of popularity as screen entertainment, then the pic- 
ture may not do so well. With impressive grimness it 
takes us back to Salem Village when that speck of New 
England was convulsed with the insanity of its belief in 
witchcraft, an obsession born of such passionate ignorance, 
distorted beliefs in the supernatural and unbridled blood- 
lust that eighteen of its people were hanged on Gallows 
Hill, with the men, women and children of the village as 
witnesses of the ghastly spectacles. 

T 

I HE picture softens history by its refusal to carry the 
audience to the foot of the gallows, building its tragedy 
more by what it implies than by what it shows; yet the 
tragedy of the almost unbelievable ignorance and vicious- 
ness of some of the early New England settlers loses none 
of its strength by such treatment. And the story has ap- 
plication to conditions existing today. That is the excuse 
for making a photoplay of a page which has been turned 
and which could profit us little if in its turning back it 
did not teach us the folly of blind superstition, of ignor- 
ance rampant and the danger of misdirected mob psychol- 
ogy. For this lesson which the photoplay teaches we are 
indebted to Frank Lloyd for the selection of the story ma- 
terial and the graphically impressive manner in which he 
presents it to us. 

An alieviating element in the general drabness of the 
story is the pleasant background against which it is told. 
Paramount sent its technical experts to the actual scenes 
in which the tragedies of a belief in witchcraft were 
enacted. Thus by the magic of the motion picture camera 
early New England is recreated authentically for us. Leo 
Tover’s photography is one of the picture’s assets. The 
same meticulous attention to detail exercised by Bradley 
King, writer of the highly creditable story, was displayed 
in the architecture of the sets and their decoration. From 
a pictorial standpoint alone Maid of Salem is a notable 
production. 

ThE acting honors go to Claudette Colbert. She has 
many excellent performances to her credit, but at the 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


moment I can remember no other which matches this one 
for its brilliant display of emotional lights and shades. 
At all times she has her scenes completely under her com- 
mand, the combination of her intelligence and technical 
proficiency giving her performance power and appeal 
that will raise her still higher in the estimation of her ad- 
mirers. And in no picture has she looked lovelier, being 
an entrancing figure in the severe costumes women wore 
in the period of her production. If you have not done it 
before, watch Claudette’s hands when you see Maid of 
Salem. They are a picture in themselves. 

Fred MacMurray takes another long step in the spec- 
tacular progress he is making toward recognition as one 
of our outstanding leading men. He was given a charac- 
terization the picture needed, a devil-may-care, gallant, 
joyous youth, madly in love with Claudette and ready to 
fight the whole world if in so doing he could be of ser- 
vice to her. The romance of the two is directed admir- 
ably. To millions of people who still hold pleasant mem- 
ories of her, the presence of Louise Dresser in the cast 
will be a factor in making the picture agreeable. Always 
a superb actress, the folly of producers in overlooking her 
is one of those bewildering stupidities in high places which 
make Hollywood so engrossingly misunderstandable. 
There are many other performances in the picture en- 
titled to individual mention, but I never yet have been 
able to write a long list of such mentions and make them 
interesting reading. 


Too Drab to Entertain 

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, United Artists release of Walter Wan- 
ger production. Directed by Fritz Lang. Co-stars Sylvia Sidney 
and Henry Fonda. Original and screen play by Gene Towne and 
Graham Baker; photographed by Leon Shamroy; art director, Alex- 
ander Toluboff; musical direction, Alfred Newman; music and 
lyrics by Louis Alter and Paul Webster; film editor, Daniel Mandell; 
assistant director, Robert Lee. Supporting cast: Barton MacLane, 
Jean Dixon, William Gargan, Jerome Cowan, Chic Sale, Margaret 
Hamilton, Warren Hymer, Guinn Williams, John Wray, Walter De 
Palma, Jonathan Hale, Ward Bond, Wade Boteler, Henry Taylor, 
Jean Stoddard, Ben Hall. Running time, 87 minutes. 

fJANDSOMELY mounted, gorgeously photographed, 
II superbly directed, brilliantly acted, You Only Live 
Once is a technical triumph for Walter Wanger. No 
more artistically conceived and competently executed 
production has come to the screen in a long time. The 
story, however, lacks elements of popularity. It is drab, 
morbid ; a thing of criminal courts, robbery, murder, 
penitentiaries, a death cell ; its hero a young man who 
graduated from the reformatory to serve three terms in 
major prisons, its heroine a young woman who at the 
end deserts her baby to flee with her murderer husband, 
and the husband is low enough to permit her to do it. 
Both of them are shot down by the law, and the picture 
fades out on the spirit of the victim of the hero’s mur- 
derous bullet informing the two that the gates of Heaven 
are open to them. 

In a cumbersome sort of way, Gene Towne and 
Graham Baker labor to make their screen play a preach- 
ment on behalf of criminals who have served their 
terms, a give-them-another-chance plea which lacks con- 
viction by virtue of the leading character’s long criminal 
record making it hard to believe in his reformation. The 


elements of the story are developed illogically. Henry 
Fonda, who plays the lead, is given a job when his third 
term expires, and is discharged, not because he is a for- 
mer convict, but because he loiters with his employer’s 
truck and throws the delivery system off schedule. And 
the employer is not characterized as an average citizen, 
which he would have to be to give strength to the perse- 
cution theme. He screams into the telephone, and is 
otherwise so abnormal it suggests the thought that Fonda 
merely was the victim of fate in having been employed 
by the wrong kind of individual. 

D 

iJY the simple expedient of making the employer an 
average business man who explains quietly his objection 
to having a former convict in his service, the persecution 
factor could have been established and some degree of 
sympathy created for the employe. Fonda later is con- 
victed of murder committed in course of a robbery, the 
only evidence against him being the finding of his hat 
at the scene of the crime, a determining influence in his 
conviction, of course, being his previous record. If Fonda 
committed the crime, what happened to the truck which 
figured in it? That question and others as pertinent 
could have been raised by defense counsel to have secured 
at least a hung jury. American juries do not send a 
man to his death merely because he had been in prison. 

That our hero is a murderer at heart, however, is es- 
tablished when he kills the prison chaplain as the latter 
comes to tell Fonda that his innocence has been estab- 
lished. This sequence is morbidly maudlin. Fonda is 
fighting his way out of prison and regards the announce- 
ment of his innocence as a trick to make him surrender. 
He escapes, joins Sylvia Sidney, his wife; they flee in 
Barton MacLane’s car; a baby is born to Sylvia in a 
barn, apparently without medical assistance and without 
checking the flight more than momentarily, for it is a 
newly born baby we see when the flight is resumed. The 
baby is taken to Jean Dixon, Sylvia’s sister, and Fonda 
and Sylvia set forth again, only to meet the bullets of 
the police. If the hero of the story had been possessed 
of one spark of manhood, he would have gone off alone 
when Sylvia was delivering the baby; leaving his wife 
and his child together to live their own lives. If the 
heroine had been possessed of any sense of decency she 
could not have sustained her love for the kind of man 
she had married, and certainly would not have abandoned 
the baby. 

Of such stuff as I relate is the story composed for our 
entertainment. If Fonda, as I suggest, had gone out 
alone to meet his fate without involving his family in it, 
there would have been more excuse for all that goes be- 
fore. He at least would have assumed some proportions 
as a hero. But he is a snivelling coward to the end — 
and we are supposed to shed tears over the cruel hand 
fate had dealt him! If Towne and Baker had left him 
in the prison in which we first see him, and had written 
a story about two other people, Walter Wanger would 
have been able to give us a picture with more entertain- 
ment in it. 

As it is, Walter’s end of it — the production — is done 
spendidly. In fact, everything in the picture except the 


Page Twelve 


January 30, 1937 


story reflects expert craftsmanship. Fritz Lang’s direc- 
tion is masterly, his development of characters being 
particularly commendable — unless he is responsible for 
the employer who screams into the telephone. Fonda’s 
performance is powerful in all its phases. Sylvia Sidney 
was unfortunate enough to be given an illogical, im- 
possible characterization for which no audience could 
develop sympathy. William Gargan is splendid as the 
prison chaplain, a part which recalls Spencer Tracy in 
San Francisco. Gargan makes the priest human, lovable, 
the only heart-warming element in the unlovely whole. 
Barton MacLane is quietly impressive. All the perform- 
ances, in short, are excellent. And Leon Shamroy’s 
photography brings a series of superb etchings to the 
screen. 

Misses Its Mark 

DANGEROUS NUMBER, Metro production end release. Directed 
by Richard Thorpe; original story by Leona Dalrymple; screen play 
by Carey Wilson; musical score by David Snell; art director, Cedric 
Gibbons; associate art directors, Daniel Cathcart and Edwin B. 
Willis; photographed by Leonard Smith; film editor, Blanche Sewell; 
assistant director, Dolph Zimmer. Cast: Robert Young, Ann Soth- 
ern, Reginald Owen, Cora Witherspoon, Dean Jagger, Marla Shel- 
ton, Barnett Parker, Charles Trowbridge. Runnting time, 69 minutes. 

Reviewed by Allan Hersholt 

F OLLOWING the triumphant appearance of My Man 
Godfrey, three or four major films have given evi- 
dence of attempting to feature with equal success the 
brand of humor found in the Universal production. 
None has been quite so fortunate. Dangerous Number, 
a Metro B offering, apparently makes this attempt, and 
the outcome is not exactly a happy one. 

Number is a trashy story which never should have 
been screened, its plot more than ordinarily flimsy and 
trite, its characters of the sort that fail to do what is 
important in any picture, even an insane comedy: arouse 
audience interest in them. Not infrequently the specta- 
tor sees a pair or more of them suddenly, and without 
sufficient reason, commence to do some totally imbecile 
thing, then abruptly stop and begin something even 
more mad, again for no even slightly convincing reason. 
As we know, far-fetched screen comedies can be delight- 
fully entertaining, but there is such a thing as a photo- 
play of this type being too far-fetched and consequently 
unfunny. Dangerous Number is a notable example of 
that. 

It would be unfair to charge Richard Thorpe with 
the deficiences of the picture. Throughout its length 
there are scenes which reflect credit on this director, 
but the material given him to work with was impossible 
from the outset. Thorpe has presented a number of 
highly successful directorial efforts recently, and as a 
result is above an assignment such as the Number story, 
which no director could have made into a notable pic- 
ture. The narrative is unfolded with a too-generous 
dose of dialogue, all of which, to be sure, is well enough 
written, as might be expected from its author. Carey 
Wilson. 

Ann Sothern and Robert Young, undeniably talented 
performers, head the cast in roles decidedly unworthy of 
their ability, and both do as well as possible. Reginald 


Owen, wasted on a small and inadequate part, also ac- 
complishes the highest possible degree of success. 

It Packs a Punch 

PARK AVENUE LOGGER, Radio picture and RKO release. A 
George A. Hirliman production. Starring George O'Brien. Directed 
by David Howard; adaptation and screen play by Dan Jarrett and 
Ewing Scott; from the Saturday Evening Post story by Bruce Hutchi- 
son; associate producer, Leonard Goldstein; production manager, 
Charles Hunt; photographed by Frank B. Good; supervising editor, 
Robert Crandall; musical supervisor, Abe Meyer; art director, F. 
Paul Sylos; recorded by W. C. Moore. Supporting cast: Beatrice 
Roberts, Willard Robertson, Ward Bond, Bert Hanlon, Gertrude 
Short, Lloyd Ingraham, George Rosener, Robert Emmett O'Connor. 
Running time, 65 minutes. 

Reviewed By Paul Jacobs 

HERE are names among the cinematic great to whose 
pictures I go with a mild sense of foreboding. But 
ever since the unforgettable thrill of The Iron Horse, the 
name George O’Brien has represented for me the epitome 
of the enjoyable in action films. Park Avenue Logger 
gives George full opportunity to flex his gigantic muscles 
and shed the light of his infectious grin. 

Thus, despite its weakness, and there are several, the 
script by Dan Jarrett and Ewing Scott is good because 
it fulfills its mission. What Bruce Hutchison, the author, 
would say is another matter. At any odds, director David 
Howard has squeezed an amazing amount of first-rate 
drama and splendid acting from his material. Park Ave- 
nue Logger gives everyone, from the massive Mr. O’Brien 
and his charmingly high-spirited sweetheart, Beatrice 
Roberts, to old-timer Robert O’Connor, opportunities for 
distinctive portrayals; an opportunity which is fully 
achieved, to the self-evident advantage of the entire pro- 
duction. 

Beautiful photography by Frank B. Good and gen- 
eral excellence of production by George A. Hirliman 
make Park Avenue Logger sturdy entertainment in its 
own right. Although it is intended as class B fare, it will 
stand on its own merits anywhere. In fact it could easily 
carry any supporting picture with it. 


Mild But Amusing 

WE'RE ON THE JURY, Radio production and release. Lee Mar- 
cus, producer; Joseph Henry Steele, associate producer; directed 
by Ben Holmes; from play, LADIES OF THE JURY, by John Fred- 
erick Ballard; screen play by Franklin Coen; photographed by Nick 
Musuraca; edited by Ted Cheesman; assistant director, Bob Barnes; 
features Victor Moore and Helen Broderick. Supporting cast: 
Philip Huston, Louise Latimer, Vinton Haworth, Robert McWade, 
Maxine Jennings, Frank M. Thomas, Colleen Clare, Billy Gilbert, 
Charles Lane, Charles Middleton, Jean Howard, Leonid Kinskey, 
Sarah Edwards, Hal K. Dawson, Edward Gargan, Earle Foxe, Roy 
James. Running time, 70 minutes. 

Reviewed By Paul Jacobs 

HE Spectator ofter has remarked the blunder made 
by producers in overlooking the superior ability of old- 
time stars. Lee Marcus substantiates the Spectator and 
vindicates himself in one gesture by offering us the rare 
talent of Victor Moore in the spotlight position. An 
actor of years’ standing, Mr. Moore has been reinstated 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


finally to the rating he enjoyed years ago. It is one of the 
few such transactions of genuine benefit to both producer 
and audience. We’re On The Jury gives Moore ample 
opportunity to please his audience. 

Translated by Franklin Coen from John Frederick 
Ballard’s Ladies Of The Jury, JVe’re On The Jury is 
little more than a laugh provoking sketch of the satirical 
type. Deftly etching the vanities and foibles of a typical 
jury, it moves lightly to a silly fade-out that reminded 
me of the two-reel Keystone era. But Ben Holmes does 
such a masterly job of directing and the cast is so com- 
pletely excellent that the weaknesses are forgotten in the 
onrush of laughs. 

Helen Broderick is, of course, splendid, her subtle, 
rhythmic comedy ranking in the top bracket of grin 
getters. That her characterization is inconsistent was no 
fault of her own, she is depicted as a silly, practically 
empty-pated lady who suddenly develops almost super-in- 
telligence in solving the murder. That Helen Broderick 
could make her role as believable as she does, is a vast 
tribute to her ability. 

Particularly effective were Robert McWade and 
Maxine Jennings; check also an even excellence for the 
rest of the cast. As usual, Nick Musuraca gives us an 
effective job of photography, and Van Nest Polglasse is 
in his expected form. But for allowing the childish fade- 
out, Ted Cheesman’s editing is irreproachable. W e’re 
On The Jury is strong support for any double bill. 

Distinctly Entertaining 

MIDNIGHT COURT, Warners production and release. Bryan 
Foy production. Directed by Frank McDonald; original screen play 
by Don Ryan and Kenneth Garnet; assistant director, Elmer Decker; 
photographed by Warren Lynch; film editor, Frank Magee; art di- 
rector, Hugh Reticker. Cast: Ann Dvorak, John Litel, Carlyle Moore, 
Jr., Joseph Crehan, Walter Miller, William Davidson, John Shee- 
han, Stanley Fields, Gordon Elliott, Gordon Hart, Harrison Green, 
Charles Foy, Eddie Foster, Lyle Moraine, George Offerman, Jr., 
Joan Woodbury. Running time, 60 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

C ONSIDERING the very important fact that director 
Frank McDonald quite evidently knows considerably 
more about direction than most of his confreres, Midnight 
Court is mildly disapppointing. It merely goes to prove 
that regardless of thoroughly competent direction and skil- 
ful acting, a film must support a large part of its weight 
on its story-translation. The progression of events, and 
their relation to the outcome is excellently done, a tribute 
to Don Ryan and Kenneth Garnet, but the totality of 
effect in the plotting somehow lost its elan in the transla- 
tion from the original writing to screen adaptation. It is 
a subtle point, but justified and discernible to the audience. 

John Litel scores as the fast-thinking lawyer whose re- 
generation is achieved through the characterful common- 
sense of Ann Dvorak. Carlyle Moore, Jr., is quite be- 
lievable, and Stanley Fields as “Slim” Jacobs, makes me 
look with dark suspicion on the family escutcheon. The 
cast is long, but uniformly capable, so I am justified in 
labeling it collectively fine. 

In keeping with a precedent he has personally estab- 
lished, Bryan Foy gives Midnight Court the best in phy- 
sical production. In fact, the production end characterizes 


the whole picture; it is utterly competent, with several 
scenes distinctly outstanding. That its total effect is not 
as vivid as its components, is no bar to its audience-appeal, 
because Midnight Court is distinctly entertaining. 

Cinematic ^Pulse 

By Paul Jacobs 

MONG the many and usually justified criticisms heap- 
ed upon the average picture, the most pertinent, per- 
haps, is its lack of originality. And although producers 
doubtless will greet this statement with smiles, I state 
definitely that originality is achieved easily, that it is 
simple in its make-up, and quickly reducible to its mech- 
anical components — in the same way that theme, tempo, 
mood, and all the other subjective factors of the films can 
be objectified and measured. There is no unit of the 
filmic whole which cannot be isolated, dissected, and 
studied while functioning under laboratory methods. 

First, let us see exactly what originality is, and what 
the ingredients are that make it up; in a later article we 
shall examine the human equation to find what typical 
habit-patterns in our nervous and mental machinery bar 
the average producer and writer from achieving origin- 
ality. According to the dictionary, originality is the qual- 
ity of being fresh, new, or novel. Thus, the films that 
are lacking in originality are trite, hackneyed, or brom- 
idic. From this net of definitions the materials of origi- 
nality are sifted easily. 

Originality obviously must demand the unusual , the 
unexpected or the undetermined. So a plot which pre- 
sents an unusual situation or characterization is bound to 
prove interesting. Here, of course, you may ask how to 
find an unusual situation. The answer lies in our defi- 
nition. Place a “usual” character against an "undeter- 
mined,” background, and you have contrast, or unusual- 
ness. For example, put the Connecticut Yankee in King 
Arthur’s Court. There you have a usual or pragmatic 
character contrasted with an unfamiliar background. The 
result is fresh, or original (or was, when Twain first used 
it as story material.) 

HE same, almost mechanical process can be made to 
produce unlimited, sparkling novelty. All one has to do 
is to search the apparently commonplace, and pull from 
it an unusual conception, an unexpected twisting of the 
dramatic threads. By reversing the Connecticut Yankee 
idea, for instance, one could have a wild (unusual) man 
get lost in Hollywood. Or, as Rogers did in another pic- 
ture, have a sprite from another world visit a prosaic 
atmosphere here, with amazing results. I do not mean 
these preposterous examples are valid ; I simply am point- 
ing out the limitless possibilities for originality by con- 
trasting the known against the unknown, the usual against 
the unusual; a common type against an uncommon char- 
acter, an uncommon person against a usual problem, a 
common type against an unusual problem, an uncommon 
type against an unusual background, with a usual prob- 
lem — and so forth, inexhaustibly. 



Page Fourteen 


January 30, 1937 


Still dealing with the mechanics of originality, we find 
another device for inducing the fresh and the novel. Let 
us go back again to our key terms, and see what we can 
get from the unexpected. To be dramatically valid, any 
unexpected plot action must hinge either upon, or be per- 
formed by, the central character. Thus, if a plot is seem- 
ingly predetermined, with the audience anticipating the 
ultimate movement or action of the main character — by 
building the climactic action to an emotionally tense con- 
dition where the main character is so moved and worked 
upon that he may logically react in a totally unexpected 
manner, originality is legitimately achieved. This de- 
vice, incidentally, is one of the few permissible means of 
switching the story movement from tragedy to “lived 
happily ever after” ending. 

SIMPLER, but no less effective method of achieving 
originality is to allow the central character to respond as 
the audience expects to the climactic situation, but to ful- 
fill his reaction in a totally unexpected manner, a manner 
made logical either by his previously established character 
traits, or by some justifying facts planted unostantatiously 
in the beginning and forgotten by the audience until the 
final action recalls them. 

The above examples brings us to the use of a most 
powerful instrument for inducing originality — the use of 
irony. For instance, if the facts planted in the beginning 
are known to the audience, but are unknown to the main 
character, his attempts to achieve a goal made impossible 
through his lack of this knowledge, injects a strong dra- 
matic flavor as the audience watches his mistakes with 
full cognizance of his futility. If, then, without the 
obvious use of coincidence, the hero unexpectedly can be 
made aware of his circumstances and win out, originality 
is achieved. 

Irony offers, in its field, as many uncounted possibili- 
ties as contrast does. Whenever the audience congratu- 
lates itself on having guessed the outcome, only to find 
itself mistaken, irony explodes its zestful flavor. For ex- 
ample, suppose that in the last case cited, the hero, seem- 
ingly unaware of the missing and necessary facts, sud- 
denly proves himself to have been aware of them all along, 
and produces his proof at the dramatically necessary 
moment. The audience is fooled, irony is evident. This 
device is particularly useful in comedy. It is evident, 
then, that the unanticipated is always sure to please an 
audience, provided it is logically introduced. 

Let me cite just two more expressions of the use of 
irony in producing original stories, and then we shall 
draw our conclusions. Maupassant gives us the Necklace 
as an example where the true irony is not brought out 
until the surprise has already foredoomed the main char- 
acter. This type is usuable for films only when the 
central character is the villain. The device is exemplified 
in O’Henry ’s The Cosmopolite in which the impulsive 
acts of the hero misinterpret his character to the audience. 
But since true character will out, the tenseful circum- 
stances near the end, suddenly produce a situation in 
which is brought forth, logically, the actual inner man, 


sometimes to the surprise of the hero himself, who per- 
haps has never known his own made-up. The “turning 
of the worm” plots are always a product of this device. 

From the foregoing, it is evident that invention is used 
in the building of plot, and that imagination must be 
used in its development. It also becomes evident that 
originality has three applications. Originality of plot- 
idea, originality of plot arrangement, or scenes and inci- 
dents, and originality of effect. It is in the achievement 
of effects that ingenuity is most needed, but it is here that 
the camera offers the largest opportunity. I will not go 
into detail on this point. Just let me cite some of the al- 
most forgotten possibilities. Montage is almost unex- 
ploited, yet no single instrument is as powerful in creating 
emotional response. Nor is there any end to the starkly 
original effects it can produce. 

The use of the interpose is next in ability to strip the 
soul from its cover and thus to bring out original treat- 
ment. Producers have forgotten it. The double exposure 
offers unexploited potentialities, even though it long has 
been abandoned. Converged and axis shots are powerful 
media for producing unusual emotional reaction. The 
list is endless. But since all these opportunities are con- 
sistently wasted, in the next issue I will examine with 
you the psychological aspect and see why we are inclined 
lazily to forfeit the rich possibilities lying dormant in the 
filmic machinery. 



By James Brant 

'THERE is a quality of Art in anything worth while — 
1 cathedrals and machinery, music and literature, a home 
or an environment, a setter at point or a trotter heading 
down the stretch. Science also plays its part in human ef- 
fort and progress. The two, science and art, may blend 
to the betterment of each. Perhaps they do, but whether 
they do or do not is not so important as the purpose lying 
behind the one or the other. 

Down the ages has come the struggle for freedom. A 
deep desire for social and physical, mental and moral 
liberty as well as political liberty. In that forward march 
Art has played its part. Wisdom and depth of thought 
have come into being in beauteous form and harmonious 
expression. The art of happy presentation, the embodi- 
ment of an idea in an artistic conception, has given in- 
spiration to following generations for further achieve- 
ment. 

Crime and corruption, given free rein, bring annihi- 
lating disaster. Criminals, allowed full sway, would re- 
duce all society to the very lowest levels and life would 
be a constant fear and misery. If Art be the expression 
of lofty thoughts in beautiful and enduring form, then 
crime and corruption have nothing of Art. If it be main- 
tained that criminals, some of them, are artists, it follows 
that as society provides for the suppression of crime and 
criminals, it necessarily regards with distaste and distrust 
the artistic work of criminals. Society, therefore, in ef- 
fect has decreed that the art of crime and criminals is 
something to be done away with and destroyed. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


f 1 ITH that attitude of society toward crime and 
criminals, involving the possible complete doing away of 
all crime, it is difficult to understand why crime and 
criminals should be taken and established as one of the 
outstanding and necessary attributes of Art. If dramatic 
presentation on stage or screen is art, one wonders why 
that which society has by its own degree declared to be 
not art at all, namely, crime and criminals, should be so 
fulsomely exploited as art and as artistic presentation. 

But, for the stage and the screen, so critics have stated, 
there can not be drama without evil things to play against 
the good. Fair enough, but if society in any particular 
state or community should succeed in abolishing all crime 
within its confines, then such society would not be inter- 
ested in anything pertaining to that which is known as 
the underworld, and drama would take on a character 
quite different from that at present prevailing. 

The science of government may take on any form. Its 
administration may be crude and harsh, with terrorizing 
subjugation, and in such form it might be known, accord- 
ing to present standards, as artistic rule. But, if scientific 
government should by a strange, outside chance take on a 
form of rule that had within itself the ideals of true Art, 
there would be harmony in its working and it would be 
an expression of truth, integrity, justice and other like and 
similar qualities. So that it is quite proper for one to 
wonder and consider whether liberty is the correct and 
only true expression of the art of governing. 

AR is sometimes referred to as scientific. The killing 
of a sufficient number of people and the destruction of a 
certain amount of property in order to collect tribute may 
properly be called artistic warfare. A fair amount of 
logical reasoning fails to uncover virtuous art in the kill- 
ing of human kind and the wilful destruction of property. 
Still, it must be there because war is scientific, and war- 
fare is the art of using scientific means to the best ad- 
vantage to accomplish wholesale annihilation. 

So Our Masters sit and ponder, write heavy notes, try 
to trade for advantage, back and fill and four-flush a 
little, all to determine whether it will be a more artistic 
performance to knock off a few thousand with submarine 
torpedoes, or whether bombs from airplanes would polish 
them more nicely; whether the gut-burning machine gun 
and rifle should be discarded for the deadly gas, or vice 
versa. Warfare must become civilized, so it has been 
voiced, and it is going to be a tough job for somebody tc 
figure out how and in what way the wholesale killing of 
men and women shall be elevated to a civilized art. Fur- 
ther consideration offers the question whether such killing 
and such destruction ever are civilized, ever artistic or 
ever an expression of Art. 

In the field of literature and also journalism, any sub- 
ject well presented with a choice selection of words, is a 
work of art because literature and, presumably, journalism 
are art and therefore anything coming under the head of 
literature or journalism must of necessity be a bit of 
artistic work. Just how literature and journalism which 
cater to depraved tastes and vacuous minds are art is some- 
thing for critics to dissertate to their hearts’ content. 


The motion picture is, properly, an art embodying var- 
ied arts. The arts of dramatic writing, acting, direction, 
lighting, music, and other, enter into its production. The 
motion picture happens to be an art, supplemented with 
scientific achievement, that appeals direct to the public 
in a way and in a manner that is intelligible to all kinds 
and classes except, possibly, the dumbest of the dumb. In 
view of its broad appeal and its tremendous potential force 
for inducing thought that later shapes into action, the 
motion picture should be held to the very highest and the 
purest and cleanest art. 

When the motion picture caters to depraved taste, re- 
sorts to the picturing of the filth of human life and ex- 
hibits passion in a manner to incite destructive and de- 
stroying thought, it becomes one with crime and crimi- 
nals, a something to be held in check, suppressed and 
obliterated. The glorification and exhibition of the human 
body seems to be one of the peculair delights of motion 
picture producers. 

N 

11 OTHING particularly wrong about it, properly 
handled, but why? It stinks in life and rots in death; is 
crippled and deformed ; has the bellyache most of the 
time and is otherwise diseased. Much better, perhaps 
even from a financial standpoint, to show the workings 
of nobility, the play of minds in contact and in conflict, 
the longing heart and struggle of souls to higher estate. 

The human mass is unthinking; buys what is offered 
to it, mostly; takes what is handed to it, generally; pro- 
gress, therefore, is dependent, mostly and generally, on a 
very few in delegated power. Because those few, very 
naturally and very humanly, are thinking principally of 
their own interest, society as a whole moves forward 
slowly. 

But if we, thou and I, could hold full sway, how we 
would change conditions! With thee and me prescribing 
entertainment and education the world would quickly 
change to a happier state. But even thou and I, so well- 
nigh perfect, are yet a trifle frail in some respects and so 
might lapse a little upon occasion. With thee and me, 
though, that would not matter much for we, thou and I, 
are far above the milling crowd and easily exempt. Still, 
even to us, thee and me, might come a desperate plight. 
Methinks, for thee and me it would be better, far better, 
if we, thou and I, did not try to change the whole world 
all at once. 


FOR RENT: Room and bath, and with breakfast if desired, 
for rent in a charming private home in the foothills above 
Crescent Heights district. Ideal for writer or others de- 
siring comfort, privacy and freedom from distracting 
noises. Phone HEmpstead 3626. 



Hollywood Cat & Dog Hospital 

Dr. H. R. Fosbinder, Veterinarian 

1151 No. Highland Ave. - HE. 1515 
"Where Pets are Treated Right" 


Page Sixteen 


January 30, 1937 


Fire Over England 

Directed by 

WILLIAM K. HOWARD 


Under Contract to 

Walter Wanger 

United Artists 



FREDRICK Y. SMITH 

FILM EDITOR 

METRO-GOLD WYN-MAYER 


Spectator and 
the Class-Room 


With a consistent point of view, sound ar- 
tistic judgment, and an intelligent sense of values, 
the SPECTATOR is a delightful and stimulating 
guide to any worker in the field of motion pic- 
ture appreciation. I know of no other maga- 
zine half so helpful to the teacher. — MRS. JES- 
SAMINE I. WEBSTER, Rutherford Senior 
High School, Rutherford, New Jersey. 


As a teacher of English, I find myself con- 
tinually quoting and reading the articles and re- 
views in the SPECTATOR to all of my classes. 
In my opinion it is the only motion picture 
magazine that is of high literary value in con- 
tent as well as in the manner in which it is ex- 
pressed. — HELEN MAE STEPHENSON, Madi- 
son Public Schools, Madison, New Jersey. 


Our English classes find the SPECTATOR of 
aid in the study of Motion Picture Apprecia- 
tion. I subscribed for it in order that the head 
of our English Department might have it for 
use in connection with her classes in that sub- 
ject. About three years ago we organized a 
course in motion picture appreciation using 
Motion Pictures and Youth, by Dale, as a text. 
In connection with it we also had copies of the 
SPECTATOR and have found it of inestimable 
value in making studies of plays reviewed in it. 
— PERCIVAL S. BARNES, Superintendent, 
The Public Schools, East Hartford, Connecticut. 


It is my custom to suggest that the teachers 
of Motion Picture Appreciation in the New 
Jersey High Schools make constant use of the 
SPECTATOR. A few reasons: You are frank 

and unbiased in expressing your opinions and 
judgments. Your preview reports arrive days 
ahead of material available from any other 
source. With the SPECTATOR on her desk, the 
teacher is closer to the center of motion picture 
activity. The teacher who uses the SPECTATOR 
will develop a pleasant feeling of comfort and 
at-homeness with her work. She will begin to 
know "what it is all about." — WILLIAM F. 
BAUER, Director, East Orange High School, 
East Orange, New Jersey. 


Feeling that the study of Motion Picture Ap- 
preciation should be widely extended through- 
out this and other countries, I would bespeak 
the value of the publication, HOLLYWOOD SPEC- 
TATOR. If Mr. Beaton’s ideals can become uni- 
versal all who are connected with the education 
of the youth of our land will owe him a deep 
debt of gratitude for his enterprising endeavors 
in this field. We recommend the SPECTATOR 
as giving the most reliable information concern- 
ing the screen of any publication which we 
know.— BESSIE N. LEONARD, The Clarke 
School for the Deaf, Northampton, Massa- 
chusetts. 


Knlhjivood 


20 

CENTS 


SPECTATOR 


Eleventh Year 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Volume 1 1 


FEBRUARY 13, 1937 


No. 23 


“The Qood Earth” and the 
“Hollywood Spectator ” 

Metro Picture Is Made a Screen Masterpiece 
By Its Adherence to the Cinematic 
Principles Which This Paper Has 
Championed Persistently Since 
Sound Came to Hollywood 

.... REVIEWS .... 

THE GOOD EARTH *** ON THE AVENUE *** READY, WILLING AND ABLE 
BREEZING HOME *** OUTCAST *** MAMA STEPS OUT *** SEA DEVILS 
BULLDOG DRUMMOND ESCAPES *** TWO WISE MAIDS *** NOBODY'S BABY 
WINGS OF THE MORNING *** TIME OUT FOR ROMANCE 

THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


February 13, 1937 


“The Good Earth” and The “ Spectator ” 


THE GOOD EARTH, Metro production and release. Associate 
producer, Albert Levrin; directed by Sidney Franklin; co-stars Paul 
Muni and Luise Rainer; features Walter Connolly, Tilly Losch, Char- 
ley Grapewin and Jessie Ralph; screen play by Talbot Jennings, 
Tess Schlesinger and Claudine West; based on novel by Pearl S. 
Buck; adapted to stage by Owen Davis and Donald Davis; musical 
director, Douglas Shearer; art director, Cedric Gibbons; associates, 
Harry Oliver, Arnold Gillespie and Edwin B. Willis; wardrobe, Dolly 
Tree; photographed by Karl Freund; film editor, Basil Wrangell; 
montage by Slavko Vorkapich. Supporting cast: Soo Yong, Keye 
Luke, Roland Lui, Suzanna Kim, Chingwah Lee, Harold Huber, Olaf 
Hytten, William Law, Mary Wong. Running time, 130 minutes. 
(Arranged for intermission.) 

py this time both Eastern and Western critics have had 
D their say about The Good Earth. It is hailed as one 
of the really great pictures in the history of the screen. 
Motion picture people, those who conceive and create the 
pictures in all the studios, have seen the Metro offering 
and declare it a masterpiece. Even at the afternoon show- 
ing, the Carthay Circle Theatre is crowded with people 
who came to see The Good Earth and depart thrilled 
by it. 

So we may take it that the picture is going to achieve 
the end for which it was made. It is going to make a 
great deal of money for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Re- 
sponsible for the profits it will earn will be the word-of- 
mouth advertising of those who see it first and continue 
to talk about it after the public has forgotten what the 
critics said about it. The fact that the public itself will 
advertise the picture is a tribute to the manner in which 
it was made. Hollywood makes pictures for the sole pur- 
pose of making money, and if each earns the profits its 
story material makes possible, we can credit its producers 
with having done a satisfactory job. 

The Good Earth as a picture starts off with the ad- 
vantage of having a well advertised name, but if it is seen 
only by those who have read the book, it will not return 
the money spent in its making. It is reported it cost two 
million dollars. To return this sum after the cost of ex- 
ploitation and the exhibitors’ share are deducted from its 
receipts, it will have to attract at least ten million people 
to the box-office, and I do not believe in all the history 
of popular fiction that many people read any one book. 


J HE picture, therefore, not the book, will be respon- 
sible for the enormous profits its makers are destined to re- 
ceive. What, then, is going to make the picture successful ? 
The story material? Scarcely. It deals with the last people 
in whom we reasonably could be expected to become inter- 
ested — an illiterate Chinaman and the kitchen slave whom 
he took as wife, inherently uninteresting people with both 
hands and feet in the soil which yields reluctantly to their 
efforts to make a living; people with whom few of the 
scores of millions who will have to see the picture to 
make it profitable, have anything in common. And the 
story is as drab as the people whose affairs it relates, a 


thing of pestilence and famine, of hardships, toil and 
suffering. Nothing there with the elements of popular- 
ity. But I repeat — the picture will attract audiences 
which will make it an enormous financial success. 

Now let us forget the picture for a moment and take 
up the second part of the heading I have put over this 
discussion, The Good Earth and the Spectator. 

I hope readers will bear with me while I repeat some 
of the convictions expressed so often in these pages they 
have become almost platitudinous utterances: The story 
is not the element of chief importance to a motion pic- 
ture. It is screen art which entertains. It is a pictorial 
art which expresses itself in visual terms. It is not an 
acting art. It is an art of projecting emotions visually. 
Dialogue is a poisonous element which saps its strength. 
The camera should tell the story with as little reliance 
as possible on spoken dialogue. No story told in dialogue 
can compete at the box-office with a story of compara- 
tive merit told in pictures. We are more receptive to 
what we can see than to what we have to listen to. 


Lj VER since sound came to Hollywood the Spectator 
consistently has championed the cause of pure screen 
art. In season and out it has acclaimed its conviction 
that the better the art becomes the better the business 
will be, that screen art is easier to sell than photographed 
stage art. Even intelligent readers who agreed with its 
stand and applauded its intentions, must have grown 
tired of its constant reiteration. I am tired of it myself. 
Unintelligent people regard me as some kind of nut and 
the Spectator as a thing of sound and fury, signifying 
nothing. Producers have regarded the Spectator as a 
pest. The producing organizations flood with their ex- 
travagant advertising any film publication which will feed 
the fattened ego of their executives, but they will not 
spend a cent with the Spectator, which is the only pub- 
lication devoted exclusively to the betterment of their 
business. 

The Spectator is not a journal of flattery which ac- 
cepts the magnitude of executives’ salaries as a reflection 
of the magnitude of their intellectual capabilities. It has 
said repeatedly, and says again, that Hollywood produ- 
cers have not the remotest knowledge of the kind of 
business they are in, that they are ignorant of the funda- 
mentals of screen art, are unaware of the reason for the 
vast popularity of film entertainment, that their pictures 
are not making half the money they would make if they 
were produced intelligently. 


/l ND it says now The Good Earth will make a lot of 
money, that it will be one of the greatest grossers in film 
history. And it first said long ago that any picture which 
in its making observed the laws of screen art, must make 
a lot of money, irrespective of its story content. Mani- 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, 
president; Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars 
the year; two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies 20 cents. Advertising rates on application. 


Hollywood Spectator 


0 


Page Three 


festly, then, The Good Earth, to achieve the success I 
predict for it, must have observed the laws of its art, 
must have followed the specifications the Spectator has 
presented so many times. I have not postulated it is good 
entertainment, have not expressed my personal opinion 
that it is a good picture and then looked for arguments 
to support the opinion. 

My approach is oblique. If The Good Earth has been 
made according to the specifications so repeatedly set 
forth by the Spectator, it must be good entertainment, 
must have outstanding appeal. If it has ignored these 
specifications and still earns the profits I predict for it, 
then the Spectator has been shooting in the dark and 
no longer is worthy of being taken seriously. 

LeT us see. The screen is a visual art. We will start 
with that. The performance of Luise Rainer is one of 
the greatest ever presented on the screen. With extra- 
ordinary vividness we become aware that she lives only 
to serve her husband, to give him sons, to advance his 
material welfare by working beside him in the fields. We 
are impressed with her patience, her unselfishness, her 
deep sense of loyalty; we respond warmly to her emo- 
tional appeal, we share her thoughts, approve her view- 
point, rejoice with her when she is happy, sorrow with 
her when she is sad. 

Never once in the entire picture does Luise Rainer 
utter one word that serves even remotely as a key to her 
emotion; she never laughs, rarely speaks, only occasion- 
ally we see on her lips the shadow of a smile. Only her 
eyes are alive. They tell us everything. The camera pries 
out their mysteries and make them clear to us. Her per- 
formance is entirely, completely and vividly visual. It is 
screen art permitted to function, the art incompetent pro- 
ducers laugh at, claiming they are businessmen, not pur- 
veyors of art. 

P 

I AUL MUNI laughs. It is part of his characterization 
as a happy, optimistic, ambitious Chinaman with rever- 
ence for the soil. But the fact of our hearing his laughter 
adds no strength to his performance. We see the laughter 
in his eyes, but making it audible to us is permissible use 
of the microphone. It has to make essential dialogue aud- 
ible, and it would be carrying our loyalty to screen art 
to absurd lengths if it did not pick up also the incidential 
sounds accompanying it. 

The screen is not an acting art, the Spectator main- 
tains. ( Muni does not act, does not use his voice to pro- 
ject his emotions to us. His performance is magnificent 
because he feels the part, is Wang; because he ignores the 
existence of an audience, because the camera brings us 
so close to him we see his feelings in his eyes. Never for 
an instant does he suggest the actor trying to convey 
something to us. His performance is visual, its audible 
element being merely a minor accompaniment. Screen art, 
not stage art, is his medium of expression. 

If the members of the Academy ever can learn to differ- 
entiate between acting and screen characterization, Miss 
Rainer and Muni already have won this year’s awards 
for the best performances, for it is too much to hope that 


any other players throughout the year will reach the 
heights of artistic perfection they attain in The Good 
Earth. 

it is too much to hope that during the year Holly- 
wood will cease photographing chatter long enough to 
give us another motion picture even approaching in its 
power and impressiveness this great saga of Chinese soil, 
one which so consistently will keep the camera in its right- 
ful place as the screen’s story telling medium. The bril- 
liantly written screen play of The Good Earth does not 
tell us a drought is coming. Reference is made in dialogue 
to what a drought would mean, knowledge essential for 
us to have, but it is the camera which takes us to it when 
it comes, which reveals to us its devastating effect, which 
fairly makes our feet warm when it leads us across the 
baked surface of the fields it burns. 

The camera takes us into homes on the heels of the 
suffering the scorching sun brings to their inmates; it 
directs our eyes to a bubbling mass in the bottom of a pot 
around which O-Lan (Miss Rainer) and her children 
are gathered, and she enlightens us as to its contents with 
a short speech, precisely as a spoken title was used when 
pictures were silent : “Earth : when it’s warm it makes 
their stomachs feel full.” It is the camera which makes 
the scene poignant ; the words merely mark its focal point. 
And they are all the words that are spoken. 

BrIEF dialogue acquaints us with the fact of there be- 
ing food in the south. The camera does the rest. It shows 
us half-starved hordes making their way southward, the 
hardships they experience when they reach their destina- 
tion, how nearly O-Lan comes to being shot for looting 
when rioting breaks out following the revolution, how 
riches unexpectedly come to Wang’s family, his resolu- 
tion to return to the land that is his home. What little 
dialogue there is in all this merely is part of the atmos- 
phere. It does not carry any of the burden of the story. 
It is visual entertainment. It is motion picture. 

The tremendous spectacle of the invasion of locusts is 
punctuated with dialogue, with shouted directions to 
those battling with the pest, but the sequence gets all its 
value from the camera. We would lose nothing if we 
could not hear what is said, therefore the dialogue de- 
mands no more mental effort on our part that we expend 
when we hear a dog barking. Wang’s change in his way 
of living, his taking up residence in the Great House, the 
civic importance his riches give him, O-Lan’s grief when 
he takes a second wife — all the rest of the story, every- 
thing in it makes it the most engrossing picture of its 
length ever presented on the screen — all of it the camera’s 
work, all of it visual. 

But — the picture making being a business — all The 
Good Earth’s compliance with the demands of screen art 
would be of importance only in respect to its effect on the 
box-office. Is good art good business? 

GoOD art is good business. That is why the Specta- 
tor is so persistent in its pleas for recognition of the art. 
For one thing, more story can be packed into one hour 


Page Four 


February 13, 1937 


of visual entertainment than into two hours of dialogue. 
When the film industry abandoned the motion picture 
business and went over wholly to talkies, it short- 
changed the public from which it was getting its riches; 
it made a bigger, louder, more showy package, but put 
into it only half the merchandise it previously had sold 
as a unit. If you do not believe this, watch a race at 
Santa Anita; go into the clubhouse when the next is run, 
then have someone good at descriptions describe the race 
you missed until your impression of it is as vivid as the 
impression of the one you saw. Even if it could be done, 
it would take a quarter of an hour for your brain to 
get the picture your eyes got in a minute. 

There you have the reason for the double-feature pro- 
gram which is making the exhibitors’ going tough. It 
takes two features to give the audience as much story as 
one silent picture gave it. You cannot short-change the 
public and get away with it. 

And even that is not the main difference between the 
talkie and the motion picture, between Dodsworth and 
The Good Earth. Fundamentally they are as far apart 
as the poles, a fact of which anyone with a modicum of 
picture brains is aware. 

v 

f ISUAL entertainment is universal. The whole fam- 
ily enjoyed a silent picture because each member saw 
in the procession of visual images what his imagination 
was capable of creating for his entertainment. Thus he 
entertained himself with his individual interpretation of 
what he saw on the screen. Nothing real was offered 
him to disturb the unity of the illusion of reality. The 
adult saw one story, the child another, and both were 
satisfied, for each saw what entertained him most. Only 
the emotions functioned. 

Talkie entertainment is not universal. Dodsworth de- 
mands the functioning of the intellect. You have to listen 
to it, as you have to listen to the description of the horse 
race; your brain must interpret what your ears con- 
vey to it. The whole family cannot enjoy it as the in- 
tellectual powers of its various members are not of equal 
receptive and interpretative capacity. 

The Good Earth is universal entertainment. Its dia- 
logue is simple, as befits the simple people who utter it, 
but if there be in it some passages the child will not grasp, 
there is, by way of compensation, enough of the simple 
language of pictures to enable him to fashion for himself 
a connected story to make him unconscious of the fact 
that he is missing anything his father is getting. So com- 
plete is the pictorial imagery of The Good Earth, a deaf 
person could enjoy it. Imagine a deaf person trying to 
follow the story of Dodsworth! 

T . . . . 

M, HERE is nothing new in anything I have written 
here. Every thought has been expressed time after time 
on Spectator pages as theories based on my convictions, 
but they lacked concrete endorsement in the form of a 
film production in which they were incorporated. Now 
comes The Good Earth to make the abstract theories box- 
office facts. But will Hollywood profit by the lesson The 
Good Earth can teach it? Oh, dear, no! You cannot 


fool Hollywood! It may blink for a moment when it re- 
gards the box-office returns from the Metro picture, but 
soon it will know the reason for its success. It will be 
because the leading characters are Chinese. It will be 
because it has locusts in it, because Paul Muni had to 
shave his head, because Luise Rainer does not use lip- 
stick, because Charlie Grapewine’s eyes are slanted. Tell 
a producer The Good Earth is a great picture because it is 
made exactly as the Spectator has claimed all pictures 
should be made, and the chances are it will give him 
apoplexy. 

You cannot make fools of Hollywood producers be- 
cause nature beat you to it. Those of them who have seen 
The Good Earth are singing its praises, yet they are ig- 
norant of the reason for their singing. They will not 
learn from it the wfisdom of making their productions 
conform to the dictates of screen art; they do not admit 
there is such an art. They can produce their salary checks 
to establish the fact of their greatness, so, when they say 
there is no screen art — well, there simply ain’t no such 
art, and that is all there is to it. Sure, a lot of pictures 
lose money, but that is because the public is dumb — 
doesn’t know what it wants. What chance do you think 
Galloping Girl has in the fourth race at Santa Anita 
’safternoon ? 


Editor’s Easy Qhair 

O NE of the notes the postman brought this week: “I 
have read a few copies of the Spectator which I 
filched from a friend, but now I wish you would send 
it to me regularly. I agree with most of your arguments, 
but do not follow you in your claim that the screen is a 
definite art. To me, a recruit from the New York stage, 
it is a business and nothing more. I am making more 
money now than I ever dreamed I’d make. . . .” The 
extraordinarily rapid growth in the Spectator’s circula- 
tion presents a problem. Old subscribers have to be 
spared constant reiteration of its convictions, while new 
subscribers, unfamiliar with them, get a wrong opinion 
of many of the arguments it presents. For instance, the 
new subscriber whom I quote does not know that I re- 
gard the screen as he does. I view it as a business, noth- v 
ing more, but I do not believe producers are conducting 
their business in a manner to develop all its business possi- 
bilities. My persistent pleading for recognition of the 
screen as an art is based upon my conviction that the art 
is the marketable element in the industry’s product. Be- 
fore big names and massive productions were offered for 
sale, when the entertainment medium was in its simplest 
form and had nothing except itself to sell, the screen 
jumped with extraordinary suddenness into popularity 
with the entire world and laid the foundation for the 
great industry which has been reared upon it. In those 
days every picture released made money. Last year out 
of 421 major features released, 126 did normal business 
or better, and 295 earned less than normal returns, 112 
of them earning no profits, and sixty-eight being outright 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


flops. I quote these figures from Norman Webb’s Na- 
tion Box Office Digest. 

T HERE must be a reason. I ascribe it to the industry’s 
action in complicating the fundamental appeal of its 
product by the infusion of elements alien to the art form 
which achieved its first success when its mechanical limi- 
tations made such infusions technically impossible and it 
was forced to tell its stories in visual terms — in other 
words, when it abandoned screen art and went over 
wholly to the stage, making its entertainment aural in- 
stead of visual. If there be any merit in my contention, 
the picture today which pleases the public most must be 
the one which relies most on the visual element. Again 
consulting the Digest’s tables: The five pictures which 
led the box-office parade last year were San Francisco, 
Mutiny on the Bounty, The Great Ziegfeld, Follow the 
Fleet, Rose Marie. Here we have a wealth of visual ap- 
peal: the ruin of a city by earthquake, a sea picture, an 
extraordinary “pretty girl’’ spectacle, dancing with a naval 
background, and the great outdoors superbly photograph- 
ed. Such social dramas as are well up in the list were 
made successful by the drawing power of the stars ap- 
pearing in them. 

K 

EEPING in mind always the fact that picture mak- 
ing is a hard-boiled business, let us take up another 
Spectator contention — that Hollywood is harming its 
business by raiding the stage for players skilled in stage 
acting. Ever since the screen began to talk I have argued 
that it is not an acting art, that stage actors harm it, that 
it is an art of projection of personality, not of acting tech- 
nique. I have urged the development of personality and 
have claimed a player’s financial value to the film indus- 
try is lessened in the degree of his mastery of stage tech- 
nique. To support the contention, I have analyzed screen 
art, delved into its fundamentals, until readers must have 
grown tired of my yammerings. In any event, producers 
ignored them. The moment an actor achieved prominence 
on the New York stage, he was captured and conveyed to 
Hollywood. Producers are businessmen, they claim, and 
they regard it as good business to get trained actors to 
replace the fresh-faced boys and girls who are growing 
up in the picture business. The Spectator’s claim is that 
it is bad business. If the producers hold the right view, 
the list of film box-office favorites must be headed by such 
names as Leslie Howard, Walter Huston, Paul Muni, 
Claude Rains, who have been in pictures long enough to 
have their names identified with them. But who are the 
leading motion picture favorites? 

Quigley publications, further to serve the 

film industry with its accustomed thoroughness, has add- 
ed a new publication to its list. Fame is a purely business 
publication. It made this request to exhibitors in the 
United States, Canada and Great Britain: “Please list 
in order the ten players whose pictures drew the greatest 
number of patrons to your theatre.” There is hard-boiled 
business for you. Quigley did not ask the Spectator 
what it thought about the relative box-office draw of 
stage and screen actors, did not indulge in abstract dis- 


cussions of the integrity of screen art, as the Spectator, 
lacking definite figures upon which to base its reasoning, 
must do if it is to discuss the matter at all. Exhibitors 
were asked to count the actual cash in their tills and tell 
Fame where it came from. Leslie Howard? Claude 
Rains? No — Shirley Temple drew more money into the 
world’s box-offices last year than any other player, male 
or female. It is almost a year since I recorded in these 
pages my opinion that Shirley was the greatest player on 
the screen. (As I base all my contentions upon what I re- 
gard as the best business interests of films, all the box- 
office had to do to prove me right was to report that 
Shirley brought it more money than any other player. 
And that is what the box-office reports. I did not claim 
she is the most skilled actress on the screen. She is not 
an actress. She has an extraordinary personality and pos- 
sesses the ability to meld it into any part she plays. Her 
beauty helps, but it is not an essential aid. 


JTaND do not give Shirley’s pictures credit for having 
much to do with her box-office rating. She heads the list 
in spite of the pictures in which she was presented, not 
because of them. Century never has understood what it 
has to sell in little Shirley Temple, never has put her in 
a picture worthy of her, yet she leads all others, by virtue 
of the possession of native qualities the stage could not 
develop in her to fit her for a screen career. Second on 
the international list of best box-office players are Fred 
Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a team. Here again we 
have in Astaire just a grown-up Shirley Temple, a man 
with a charming personality and the ability to project it, 
added to graceful agility as a dancer. Fred is not an ac- 
tor, nor is he a singer, but at what we call acting and 
singing, he has earned his high box-office rating with the 
personality he puts into them. Nor is Ginger Rogers an 
actress, if by actress we mean Luise Rainer, Greta Garbo, 
Miriam Hopkins, Barbara Stanwyck, or many others who 
rate far below her on the list. Clark Gable is second on 
the American list and fourth on the international list, 
Gracie Fields being third on the latter. In order on the 
American list come Astaire-Rogers, third, Robert Taylor, 
Joe E. Brown, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Jean- 
ette MacDonald, Gary Cooper. Next in order is the ex- 
hibitors’ rating come fifteen under the classification, 
“Honor Stars.” They are headed by Jane Withers. The 
Howards and Munis, whose screen performances are rare 
intellectual treats, are headed by a few score whose person- 
alities and ability to express them in cinematic terms 
make their appeal to our emotions and whose box-office 
strength was developed in pictures and was not trans- 
planted from the stage. And that should establish the 
truth of the Spectator’s contention that the stage has 
nothing to contribute to the screen, a contention I have 
argued until I am as sick of it as you are. 

* * * 


YLTHEN the producers learn how to read original stories 
ff sent to them, there will be fewer journeys to New 
York in search of plays which can be photographed and 
offered to the public falsely labelled as motion pictures. 
As a sporting gesture, Harry Cohn’s action in paying 
$200,000 for a play is entertaining; as a picture business 


Page Six 


February 13, 1937 


transaction it is the height of idiocy. If he had advertised 
he was in the market for ten screen stories, for which he 
would pay $20,000 apiece, the best writers in the world 
would have submitted material. Harry’s difficulty, one 
he shares with all his fellow producers, would be in dis- 
covering the cinematic values of the stories sent him. He 
probably still is unaware of the cinematic values of the 
play for which he paid such an absurd price, but the pub- 
lic has hailed its stage values, and that is enough for 
Harry, as it was also for the other film producers who 
competed for it. If the story of the play is worth that 
much for pictures, it would be worth more if written 
originally for the screen with the author’s chief concern 
always being the camera as the medium which ultimately 
would express it for presentation to the public. But if 
you can imagine a picture producer paying $200,000 for 
an original screen story, one conceived and executed solely 
for the medium in which it was going to be expressed, 
you have an imagination fertile enough to make a fortune 
for you as a screen writer. Of all the crazy things the 
film industry does, the craziest is its manner of searching 
for its story material. It has plenty of stuff submitted to 
it, but the task of examining it for screen values is as- 
signed to readers who do not know what screen values 
are. Many of them have had experience in estimating the 
values of stories for publication in magazines or in book 
form, but they are totally unaware their studio task is 
not one of looking for stories. It is one of looking for 
motion pictures. 


I HE author who writes a story for the camera is at the 
rnercy of the studio reader who lacks the screen training 
necessary to enable him to visualize the story as he reads 
it. Let us say an original screen story has a sequence 
showing Mary and John in a moonlit garden, exchang- 
ing conversational platitudes, the value of the sequence 
being the stealing closer of their hands and finally an 
embrace. In a book there would be a rich word-painting 
of the garden, the mirrored moon in the lily pond, the 
outstretched arms of the elms against the softly illuminat- 
ed sky, the mingled perfume of the lilac and the rose, the 
song of the mocking bird on the still night air, diamonds 
the moon sprinkles in Mary’s hair, the silvered softness 
of the color of her gown — words woven into garlands to 
lure the studio reader, trained in reaction to literary 
charms, into the mood of the scene until he is impressed 
with its beauty and stirred by its romantic glamor. 


B 


UT the trained screen author, assuming his script was 
to be read by a trained screen reader, would compress the 
sequence into its physical elements, into the action of 
Mary and John in going into the garden, holding hands, 
finally embracing. The author would realize the sequence 
derived all its values from its romantic setting — from the 
moon, the trees, the flowers, the lily pond and the mock- 
ing bird — but he knows the studio has departments 
manned by geniuses in the art of producing such effects. 
He would know it was not his task to write a motion 
picture, but to suggest one for motion picture minds to 
make into a picture. But studio readers being what they 
are, they undoubtedly would deem the sequence a stupid 


one because nothing really happened in it. Now if John 
had choked Mary to death, or drowned her by holding 
her head under a floating lily — well, there would be 
something the studio reader could grasp in a flash ; it 
would be violent enough to shock him into seeing it. So 
our trained screen writer, knowing what he would be up 
against, never becomes a trained screen writer. He knows 
a better way to get money out of the screen industry, a 
way by which he can get a whole lot more money than 
he could by becoming a trained screen writer: He writes 
for book publishers, magazine editors or play producers, 
developing his story values for mediums in no way re- 
lated to the screen, and picture producers stumble over 
one another to grab his stuff and pay him fabulous sums 
for it. So, while the final solution of the industry’s story 
problem lies in the establishment of its own source of 
original story material, any writer with ability to supply 
some of it would be a damned fool if at the present time 
he embarked on a career as a writer of original stories 
for the screen. 

* * * 

L ET us hope the Academy’s voting for the best perfor- 
mances of the past year will not be based on the 
standards which Jimmie Fiddler applies to his judging. 
In a recent broadcast, Jimmie eliminated Paul Muni’s 
Louis Pasteur on the ground that Paul long since had 
established himself as a really great actor and such a per- 
formance was to be expected from him. Gary Cooper’s 
Mr. Deeds does not get Jimmie’s vote because Gary is 
not an actor, therefore was compelled to play himself. 
Jimmie’s choice is Spencer Tracy for his priest in San 
Francisco. Having dismissed acting technique and per- 
sonality as determining factors in making his award, 
Jimmie lights on a man who combines both more skil- 
fully than perhaps any other player in pictures. The very 
reason Jimmie advances for selecting Tracy is the one for 
which he excludes Muni. But that is not the funniest 
feature of his reasoning. If he knew what screen acting 
is, to be consistent he would have to give acting honors to 
Gary Cooper or withdraw his remarks about Gary’s not 
being an actor. He complains that Gary plays himself, 
and is unaware that that is precisely what screen acting 
consists of — the projection, not of acting technique, but 
of personality. Gary’s Mr. Deeds is a superb character- 
ization because he absorbed the part so completely, be- 
came so entirely the character, that he did not have to 
act it. Without being aware of it, Jimmie really nom- 
inated Gary for the acting award. Not for the world 
would I disturb Jimmie’s fascinating cocksuredness. If I 
thought criticism would penetrate it, I would not criti- 
cize him. I like bantam roosters. I do not know what 
they expect to accomplish by their strutting, but I love 
to watch them strut. 

* * * 

JlOLLYfVOOD studios turn out class A and class B 
11 product. Henry Ford makes two kinds of cars, Lin- 
coln (class A) and Ford (class B). Ford, the world’s 
greatest industrialist, does not deem his class B product 
unimportant because it costs less per unit than the class 
A product. He made his name the symbol for mechani- 
cal perfection in both the high price and low price fields. 
When you buy either a Lincoln or a Ford, you know 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


what you are buying. With your admission to a picture 
house you do not know what you are buying. If you read 
the advertisements you are assured the picture you are 
going to see is the greatest, grandest, most glorious one 
ever made. You are not informed it is a class B produc- 
tion turned out in the shortest possible time and shot onto 
the market for no reason other than that it already has 
been sold. If Ford rated his class B product in the same 
manner it would take less time to watch the Fords go by. 
The selling advantage the film industry has is the neces- 
sity of exhibitors to keep their houses open, while no one 
is compelled to buy a Ford. Producers take advantage of 
the situation. Universal, however, announces it will make 
no more class B pictures. Adolph Zukor, with a quarter 
century’s experience in selling pictures, declared in a New 
York interview that the policy of making class B product 
is an unwise one and that hereafter Paramount would 
make all its pictures start from scratch, each striving to 
reach class A standard, but he added with ingenuous 
frankness that some of them, of course, would not reach 
that standard. United Artists refused to permit one of 
its members, Alexander Korda, to sign a contract to pro- 
duce pictures costing $200,000 each, the explanation be- 
ing that such cheap pictures would not be up to the 
United Artists standard. As a result, Korda agrees to 
make a series, the cost not to be below $300,000 each. 

ClASS B product is doing the film industry an injury 
it will be a long time recovering from. It has got the pro- 
ducers into the habit of rating the entertainment qual- 
ity of pictures by the number of dollars it takes to make 
them. If Korda gets a good story, shoots it against a back- 
ground of the matchless rural scenery of England, intro- 
duces in it some refreshingly new faces and by virtue of 
having no expensive sets to build and big salaries to pay, 
brings in a highly entertaining picture which will please 
audiences but upon which he could not spend more than 
a quarter of a million dollars — if Korda does all that, his 
partners in United Artists, already on record as declaring 
that a picture cannot be good if it costs less than $300,- 
000, will refuse to release it and will charge him with 
breach of contract because he saved some money. Class 
B pictures also are rated on the basis of cost, and as they 
are the cheapest pictures the industry makes, they are 
ground out on the theory that speed in making them is 
more important than the careful development of their 
story possibilities. So restricted as to time and money are 
the producers in charge of them and the directors who 
make them, it is almost impossible for a class B production 
to develop entertaining qualities to justify what the public 
is charged to view it. Most of the class B pictures I see 
merely are underdeveloped class A potentialities. Adolph 
Zukor’s new policy for Paramount is a step in the right 
direction, but since he took charge of his studio’s produc- 
tion activities Paramount product has not indicated that 
his quarter of a century’s experience in selling pictures has 

taught him how to make them. 

* * * 

AN Eastern critic chastises the public for its failure to 
** make Shakespearean pictures pay at the box-office. 
Years ago, when it carried its first review of a picture 
made from one of Shakespeare’s plays, the Spectator 


said that the Bard of Avon was not, and could not be 
made, box-office. Every such picture made since that time 
proved the Spectator to be right, but I am not sure 
Hollywood yet is entirely cured of its Shakespearean com- 
plex. At all events, there is no justice in calling the pub- 
lic ignorant because it will not buy what it does not want. 
As a matter of fact, the public is the only wholly intelli- 
gent factor in picture making. The box-office is the bar- 
ometer which registers its opinion as to what should and 
should not be presented on the screen. Its sense for 
spotting cinematic values is unerring. It will try almost 
anything once, but in the long run what does not belong 
on the screen will be spurned. In the role of goat, how- 
ever, the public is valuable. If a picture fails, it never is 
the producer’s fault. It fails because the public is ignor- 
ant. The size of the producer’s salary check is quite 
enough to assure us that no one worth all that money 
could be mistaken about anything. To solace the Eastern 
critic, I would like to assure him that if the screen ever 
develops its otvn Shakespeare, he will not be a success on 
the stage. The two arts speak different languages. A 
photograph of the stage is not a motion picture, and mo- 
tion pictures are what the public wants and has the sense 
to recognize. When Hollywood becomes as intelligent as 
the public, there will be no box-office failures. 

Some Late Previews 

In Every Way Satisfactory 

ON THE AVENUE, 20+h-Fox release of Irving Berlin's production. 
Associate producer, Gene Markey; co-stars Dick Powell and Made- 
leine Carroll; features Alice Faye, the Riti Brothers and George 
Barbier; directed by Roy Del Ruth; screen play by Gene Markey 
and William Conselman; music and lyrics by Irving Berlin; dances 
staged by Seymour Felix; photographed by Lucien Andriot; art 
direction, William Darling; associate, Mark-Lee Kirk; sets by Thomas 
Little; assistant director, William J. Scully; film editor, Allen Mc- 
Neil; costumes, Gwen Wakeling; sound, Joseph Aiken and Roger 
Heman; musical direction, Arthur Lange. Supporting cast; Alan 
Mowbray, Cora Witherspoon, Walter Catlett, Douglas Fowley, Joan 
Davis, Stepin Fetchit, Sig Rumann, Billy Gilbert, E. E. Clive, Douglas 
Wood, John Sheehan, Paul Irving, Harry Stubbs, Paul Gerrits, 
Ricardo Mandia, Edward Cooper. Running time, 90 minutes. 

f\UITE the cleverest of the sort that we have had. With 
shocking disregard for screen traditions which de- 
mand that all such stories must be about a former play- 
boy’s efforts to stage a show on Broadway, managing to 
do it only at the last moment when the heroine dashes in 
with a bankroll just as the scenery is being loaded on a 
truck to take it to the warehouse in Brooklyn — spurning 
all this and actually thinking up something new, Gene 
Markey and Bill Conselman save us the birth pains of the 
play and open on it underway. That is one of the admir- 
able features of On the Avenue. Another is that every 
glimpse we get of the stage performance is part of the 
story. We are not treated to a series of interruptions to 
the story, nor is any effort made to stun us with magnifi- 
cent scenic effects. There are some imposing spectacles in 
the production, but they are worked in as story elements 
and sustain the continuity of our interest in what is hap- 
pening to the characters involved in the romance. 

The refreshing newness of the story and the brilliant 
direction given it by Roy Del Ruth have quite as much 


Page Eight 


February 13, 1937 


to do with making the picture entertaining as has the ex- 
cellence of the Irving Berlin music and the outstanding 
performances contributed by all the members of the long 
cast. Del Ruth keeps the story in the foreground at all 
times and adds sparkle to the lively sense of humor re- 
vealed by Markey and Conselman in building situations 
and writing dialogue. I was getting fed up on back-stage 
stories, but this one revives my interest in them. It is one 
you should see. 

M . 

Ill OST of the story is handed to Dick Powell, Made- 
leine Carroll and Alice Faye. Each of them appears to 
better advantage than ever before. Both in singing and 
acting Dick rises to new heights, responding with zest to 
Del Ruth’s direction and developing rich results from 
the Berlin words and music. The beautiful Madeleine is 
captivating in a nicely shaded performance, and Alice 
Faye’s appealing personality and pleasing singing voice 
will win the favor of any audience. The Ritz Brothers 
are as crazy as ever and even more amusing than usual 
with their hilarious antics. Others who contribute to the 
feast of fun are George Barbier, Alan Mowbray, Cora 
Witherspoon and Walter Catlett. The importance of 
well done bits to the sum total of a production is strongly 
developed by E. E. Clive as a hack driver and Billy Gil- 
bert as a lunch counter proprietor. And for the first time 
I could understand every word uttered by Stepin Fetchit. 
That means he is highly amusing. 

Twentieth Century gave the picture an ambitious pro- 
duction without over-building it to the point of dwarfing 
the story, and Lucien Andriot’s photography beautifully 
realizes all its pictorial possibilities. Irving Berlin gives 
the world half a dozen bits of music destined to attain 
wide popularity. The few dance numbers are presented 
attractively by Seymour Felix. The outstanding feature 
of the story and song and dance interpolations is that we 
are given just enough of everything. As you leave the 
theatre, you will not feel cheated, even though you may 
feel you could have stood quite a lot more of it. 

Dobbin Has His Day 

BREEZING HOME, Universal picture. Directed by Milton Car- 
ruth; associate producer, Edmund Grainger; original story by Fin- 
ley Peter Dunne, Jr., and Philip Dunne; screen play, Charles Gray- 
son; photographer, Gilbert Warrenton, A.S.C.; art direction, Jack 
Otterson; associate, Loren Patrick; film editor, Otis Garrett; musi- 
cal director, Charles Previn; music, Jimmy McHugh; lyrics, Harold 
Adamson; special effects, John P. Fulton; sound supervisor, Homer 
G. Tasker. Cast: William Gargan, Binnie Barnes, Wendy Barrie, 
Raymond Walburn, Alma Kruger, Alan Baxter, William Best, Michael 
Loring. 

A NICE little picture about a race horse, Bill Gargan 
and Wendy Barrie, all three of whom give good ac- 
count of themselves. The theme of the story is developed 
so consistently in Charles Grayson’s screen play based on 
the original by the two Dunnes, that the whole thing 
practically amounts to a technical exposition of the horse- 
racing game. Certainly its appeal is limited to those who 
take an interest in the sport. There is a romance, of 
course, but it is merely an incidental element, secondary 
in importance to the physical welfare and the success on 
the course of a gallant looking racehorse who really is 
the hero of the story. I doubt the wisdom of gratuitously 


limiting the appeal of a story by stressing the theme and 
neglecting the human element. Interest in racehorses is 
not universal, and it is the universality of the story’s ap- 
peal which determines a picture’s box-office value. Only 
one incident in the story will provoke criticism by those 
who know the horse racing game. When the odds against 
the horse hero are twenty-five to one, Raymond Walburn 
bets $750 on him at even money. Walburn is character- 
ized as a good natured ass, but even an ass cannot put 
quite that much strain on our credulity. 

B REEZING HOME is one of the class B pictures 
which Universal announces it will discontinue making. 
In entertainment value it is considerably above the aver- 
age class B product. For one thing, it has a horserace 
which in real life would set a grandstand crazy with ex- 
citement. The director and the technicians who made the 
shots are entitled to credit for giving us some stirring en- 
tertainment. All the way through, the direction is first 
class. I cannot recall having seen Milton Carruth’s name 
before. If this is his first bit of direction, he is going 
places. William Gargan, to me one of the most pleasing 
leading men in pictures; Wendy Barrie, whom I liked 
better than ever before; Binnie Barnes, in another of the 
snooty roles she does so well ; Alma Kruger, a gracious 
and talented matron, and William Best, a colored come- 
dian, are thoroughly satisfactory in their several roles. 
Alan Baxter, a capable heavy, does not read his lines in 
the corner-of-the-mouth monotone he employed in former 
characterizations, the result being the best performance 
he has given. 

In two places when the story is occupying our atten- 
tion, Wendy Barrie sings songs to check its forward prog- 
ress. The McHugh-Adamson songs are all right, and 
Wendy sings them quite nicely, but they should have been 
held for some picture they would help, not hinder. 


One More of the Same 

READY, WILLING AND ABLE, Warners production and release. 
Executive producer, Hal Wallis; associate producer, Sam Bischoff; 
directed by Ray Enright; assistant director, Lee Katz; screen play 
by Jerry Wald, Sig Herzig and Warren Duff; from story by Richard 
Macaulay; photography by Sol Polito; film editor, Doug Gould; 
art director, Carl Jules Weyl; gowns, Howard Shoup; musical direc- 
tor, Leo F. Forbstein; lyrics and music by Johnny Mercer and Rich- 
ard Whiting; musical numbers directed by Bobby Connolly. Cast: 
Ruby Keeler, Lee Dixon, Carol Hughes, Allen Jenkins, Louise Fa- 
zenda, Ross Alexander, Winifred Shaw, Hugh O'Connell, Teddy 
Hart, Addison Richards, Shaw and Lee, E. E. Clive, Jane Wyman, 
May Boley, Charles Halton, Adrian Rosley, Lillian Kemble Cooper, 
Barnett Parker. Running time, 87 minutes. 

O NCE more we have the musical-dance film in which 
the harassed hero manages only at the last moment 
to raise the money that will raise the curtain on the show 
that positively is going to slay Broadway. Yes, you have 
guessed it: the heroine is instrumental in raising the 
money. For every one person who these days pays his way 
into a legitimate theatre, there are several thousand 
throughout the world who pay their way into film the- 
atres. If the public’s interest in the living theatre were 
great enough to justify the persistency of picture pro- 
ducers in their choice of the stage as story material for 
their screen productions, every town in the country would 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


have its own theatre. Hollywood has the notion that an 
elaborate dance number can fit into nothing except a 
backstage story; and it also is under the impression that 
Main Street cannot be given too much of Times Square. 
It is a disease which ultimately will wear off. 

Ready , Willing and Able you will find to be mildly 
entertaining if you still can be entertained by a picture of 
the sort. For Hollywood its gaiety is dampened somewhat 
by the presence of the late Ross Alexander in the cast, 
the feeling of regret being accentuated by the fact that 
his performance is the best he gave the screen. It would 
have advanced him a long way toward stardom. The cute 
and cuddly Ruby Keeler, always one of my staunch favor- 
ites, is even more delightful than usual. Louise Fazenda 
contributes some excellent comedy, as does also Hugh 
O’Connell. Carol Hughes, Lee Dixon, Allen Jenkins, 
Winifred Shaw and Addison Richards also stand out. 

NoW we come to Allen Jenkins’ hat. Louise, Ruby, 
Carol, O’Connell, Alexander and Jenkins compose a 
party having a dish of tea in Ruby’s apartment. For the 
duration of the party Jenkins wears his hat. He plays an 
actors’ agent, one of the ten percent fraternity. All 
through the sequence my thoughts were on the hat. Why 
did he keep it on his head? Was it to characterize all 
actors’ agents as uncouth fellows unaware of the ordinary 
dictates of social usage? On the screen such action is 
more than a mere breach of rules of politeness; it is a 
distraction, an element that diverts the attention of the 
audience from the story significance of the scene, a gra- 
tuitous break in the continuity of audience interest in the 
story. 

Warner Brothers provide the picture with the usual 
spectacular setting which is a feature of productions of 
the sort and it is photographed with Sol Polito’s estab- 
lished artistic skill. The writers of the screen play are 
responsible for a connected narrative and some witty dia- 
logue. Sam Bischoff, associate producer, supplied Ray 
Enright, always a dependable director, with a wealth of 
material to work with, and right nobly did Ray perform 
his task, giving us one of the best directed of the long 
series of such offerings. 

It WiU Irritate You 


MAMA STEPS OUT, Metro production and release. Produced by 
John Emerson; directed by George B. Seitz; features Guy Kibbee, 
Alice Brady, Betty Furness and Stanley Morner; screen play by 
Anita Loos; from stage play by John Kirkpatrick; musical score by 
Edward Ward; songs by Chet Forrest and Bob Wright; photograph- 
ed by Jackson Rose; film editor, George Boemler; assistant direc- 
tor, Walter Strohm. Supporting cast: Gene Lockhart, Edward Nor- 
ris, Gregory Gaye, Ivan Lebedeff, Heather Thatcher, Mitchell Lewis, 
Anna Demetrio, Frank Puglia, Adrienne D'Ambricourt, Running 
time, 70 minutes. 

11/fETRO does the whole industry a service in demon- 
ITl strating in this production the folly of loud dialogue. 
The story is a little older than most of the other old 
stories, but that is not a drawback. The only thing that 
counts on the screen is the manner in which a story is 
told. The cast of Mama Steps Out is composed of cap- 
able players, and they are seen against the backgrounds 
which have made both Metro and Cedric Gibbons fa- 
mous for the attractiveness of the physical features of 


their productions. Anita Loos turned in a conventional 
talkie script, making intelligent use of the comedy possi- 
bilities of the play by John Kirkpatrick. Dolly Tree saw 
to it that the women were gowned becomingly, and Jack- 
son Rose shot the whole thing in a manner which realizes 
all its pictorial possibilities. 

The story is a trivial one. The story of My Man God- 
frey also is a trivial one. Most of the screen stories are 
trivial in that they deal with our trivial desires and dis- 
appointments, with petty things which are important be- 
cause they happen to us. Their strength as story material 
lies in the fact that we can project ourselves into them 
and live over again experiences we have had. Thus is our 
sympathy for the characters established, and it is sustain- 
ed as long as we can approve the reactions of the charac- 
ters to the situations in which they find themselves. Here 
we have a story which invites our sympathy for Guy 
Kibbee, as the husband of Alice Brady who yearns for 
contact with the culture and traditions of Europe. The 
locale is the French Riviera. 

U N FORTUNATELY, the comic possibilities of the 
story are submerged in a vocal uproar; our aural sense is 
affronted by a sustained barrage of loud dialogue. The 
mission of any dramatic offering is to create in us a de- 
sire, and then to grant it. Tbe greatest desire Mama 
Steps Out arouses is that the players should shut up and 
give our ears a rest. The desire is not granted. Kibbee, 
with whom we should sympathize by virtue of his being 
married to a silly, flighty woman, reads his lines in a loud 
monotone, utterly devoid of expression, until our sym- 
pathy goes to his wife for having to live with him. His 
voice is an irritating element all the way through the film. 
And there are others in the cast who offend in the same 
manner. There is none of the ordinary conversations 
which make screen dialogue convincing. 

In one scene Betty Furness sighs, and we hear the sigh, 
thus establishing the fact of the microphone’s ability to 
bring faint sounds to us. But that scene apparently meant 
nothing to the producers when they saw and heard it in 
the daily rushes; they let Kibbee and the others go on 
their howling way until what could have been an amus- 
ing comedy becomes only an irritation. The good things 
in it are not worth the price of admission when you have 
to buy annoyance with your ticket. All I carried away 
from it was the desire to see more of the comedy of 
Heather Thatcher and Gregory Gaye. 


Florey in Fine Form 

OUTCAST, Paramount release of Emanuel Cohen production. 
Features Warren William, Karen Morley and Lewis Stone. Directed 
by Robert Florey; screen play by Doris Malloy and Dore Schary; 
original story, Frank R. Adams; photographed by Rudolph Mate; 
assistant director, Earl Rettig; art director, Wiard Ihnen; film edi- 
tor, Ray F. Curtiss; musical arrangements, Ernst Toch; musical direc- 
tion, George Stoll. Supporting cast: Jackie Moran, Esther Dale, 
John Wray, Christian Rub, Virginia Sale, Ruth Robinson, Murray 
Kinnell, Jonathan Hale, Richard Carle, Frank Melton, Lois Wilde, 
Tommy Jackson, Matthew Betz, Harry Woods, George Magrill, 
Dick Alexander. Running time, 73 minutes. 

r HE camera is a potent instrument in a picture directed 
by Robert Florey. He brings to the screen much of 
the rich pictorial quality which the better European direc- 


Page Ten 


February 13, 1937 


tors strive for and are so successful in attaining. For 
Outcast he was fortunate in having behind the camera 
such an expert craftsman as Rudolph Mate. Mate’s 
realization of Florey’s composition conceptions, his mas- 
tery of shadows and subdued lighting, do much more for 
the production than merely their contribution to its visual 
attractiveness. In his photography Florey does not strive 
for beauty. The establishment and sustaining of mood 
are his objectives. Outcast opens with a shot of Jonathan 
Hale as a judge presiding at a murder trial. The camera 
looks up at him and gets a scene which suggests the maj- 
esty of the law, the dignity which surrounds its adminis- 
tration, the respect we should feel for it. Thus is the 
mood of the picture set at the beginning, and throughout 
it is sustained consistently by intelligent display of unity 
of photographic and story elements. 

Outcast is a gripping drama with the same basic theme 
as that of Maid of Salem — distorted mob psychology, the 
power for evil of ignorance wedded to prejudice. Warren 
William, a noted surgeon, is spurned by his profession 
even though acquitted of murder of a patient by neglect; 
finally finds his way to a small village and there resumes 
his practice. He operates on Jackie Moran (a clever 
boy), the son of Esther Dale and John Wray; Miss 
Dale, an ignorant, dynamic woman, interferes; the boy 
dies just as the village learns of William’s past record; 
he is accused of having murdered the boy; a mob assem- 
bles to hang him. 

AlL this tragic drama is developed powerfully by 
Florey’s effective direction. When he first came to this 
country from Europe, the first thing he did here prompted 
me to predict in these pages that his career as a director 
would be a brilliant one, but Florey never seems to have 
been given the chance I would have given him if I were 
a producer. He has directed only the smaller pictures to 
which adherence to shooting schedules is deemed to be of 
more importance than the full development of their en- 
tertainment possibilities. Everything he has brought to 
the screen reveals a genius capable of great accomplish- 
ments, but the film business is such a weird one his genius 
is not recognized by those who could profit by it. 

Florey tells his story with graphic progression which 
does not allow our attention to wander for a moment. 
He blends the performances into it until we have no feel- 
ing we are looking at players enacting parts. Warren 
William gives what is by long odds his most convincing 
screen characterization. Lewis Stone, a grand performer 
always, is even more than usually impressive. Miss Dale, 
Wray, Christian Rub and Karen Morley are in every 
way satisfactory. The screen play of Doris Malloy and 
Dore Schary is competent screen writing, a script which 
sticks strictly to its business of telling its story without 
wandering around to embrace incidents not related to it. 
Consistently and dramatically it develops the theme of 
the story. 

It Is a Sorry Mess 

SEA DEVILS, an Edward Small production, RKO release. Directed 
by Ben Stoloff; screen play by Frank Wead, John Twist and P. J. 
Wolfton; photographed by J. Roy Hunt, A.S.C., and Joseph 
August, A.S.C.; special effects by Vernon Walker, A.S.C.; art di- 


rector, Van Nest Polglase; associate, Sidney Ullman; musical direc- 
tor, Roy Webb; costumes by Edward Stevenson; set dressing by 
Darrell Silvera; recorded by John L. Cass; edited by Arthur Rob- 
erts; technical adviser, Lieut. H. C. Moore; assistant director, 
Kenny Holmes. Cast: Victor McLaglen, Preston Foster, Ida Lupino, 
Donald Woods, Helen Flint, Gordon Jones, Pierre Watkin, Murray 
Alper, Billy Gilbert, Barbara Pepper. 

mm 

J}ECA USE the script tells him he has to do it, Victor 
MJ McLaglen begins to hate Preston Foster before he 
sees him. Sea Devils is dedicated to the Coast Guard 
Patrol, a foreword giving us the impression that the pur- 
pose in making it was to let the public know more about 
the force which does such heroic work when storms force 
ships on our rocky shores. We presume RKO make the 
necessary research and we can accept the picture as an 
authentic presentation of the service. I, for one, was glad 
to get such knowledge, as I never before was given an 
opportunity to get an intimate glimpse of the Coast Guard 
young men when at work and play. Taking RKO’s word 
for it therefore, we learn these things about this import- 
ant branch of U. S. government service: 

A chief Boatswain’s Mate in the Coast Guard Patrol 
is a vulgar lowbrow who uses his position to vent his 
personal hate for a man whom he began to hate the first 
time he heard him on the radio; a man in a U. S. uniform 
who parades through a saloon to the private quarters of 
the woman who owns it and wheedles money out of her; 
a man who, to vent his spite, perjures himself when testi- 
fying at a courtmartial, who gets beastly drunk and re- 
signs from the service for some reason I was too bored 
to get. He is the man who motivates the story, the story 
is dedicated to the brave men of the service, therefore we 
may accept this portrait as reflecting RKO’s conception 
of its personnel. 


^ASSUMING we are right so far, we must accept the 
whole thing as an authentic document. Our next step, 
therefore would be to petition congress to do something 
to raise the standard of the service, to make it a greater 
credit to the flag it serves. Further research, however, 
probably would reveal that RKO’s portrait is distorted 
somewhat. So let us get back to the Sea Devils. 

Edward Small, its producer, spent a lot of RKO money- 
in demonstrating that he should be in some other busi- 
ness. The production does not reveal one spark of cine- 
matic knowledge. Preston Foster, an excellent actor with 
a pleasing personality, is the hero of the romance. He is 
characterized as an irritating ass whom a nice girl like 
Ida Lupino, who ultimately marries him, would not tol- 
erate for a moment. The audience will want her to 
marry the fine, upstanding and pleasing Donald Woods, 
but McLaglen’s hatred of Foster results in Wood’s death. 
That is the kind of story Small gives us as screen enter- 
tainment. There is not a convincing moment in it. At 
RKO’s disposal are people who know how to make 
motion pictures, who could spend its money in a manner 
which would prove profitable to it, and who with their 
eyes shut and both arms tied to their backs, could not 
turn out such a sorry mess as Sea Devils, but RKO does 
not seem to be aware of it. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


Notable Direction 

NOBODY’S BABY, Metro release of Hal Roach picture. Directed 
by Sus Meins; original story and screen play by Harold Law, Hal 
Yates and Pat C. Flick; photographed by Norbert Brodine; sound 
recorded by W. B. Delaplain; film editor, Ray Snyder; art direction, 
Arthur I. Royce; settings, W. L. Stevens; photographic effects by 
Roy Seawright; music by Marvin Hatley, with lyrics by Walter Bul- 
lock; dances staged by Roy Randolph; musical arrangements by 
Jimmy Grier. Cast: Patsy Kelly, Lyda Roberti, Lynne Overman, 
Robert Armstrong, Rosina Lawrence, Don Alvarado, Tom Dugan, 
Orrin Burke, Dora Clemant, Laura Treadwell, Tola Nesmith, Flor- 
ence Roberts, Si and his orchestra, The Rhythm Rascals and The 
Avalon Boys. Running time, 76 minutes. 

Reviewed by Allan Hersholt 

N this we are given a generouus quantity of amusing 
comedy of the farcical sort. Unimpressive from the pro- 
duction standpoint, decidedly the opposite so far as direc- 
tion is concerned, weak in its narrative and satisfactory 
in its performances, Nobody's Baby merits recommenda- 
tion to those in search of laugh-provoking entertainment — 
to those who do not mind having a screen comedy unfold 
with dialogue as its principal story-teller. 

The picture moves swiftly. A glance at the names of 
its cast will reveal that it has a group of players skilled 
in the art of providing amusement, and none of them 
gives a performance which is at any moment inadequate. 

Three or four years ago I viewed a two-reel Hal Roach 
offering that directorially pleased me to such an extent I 
acquired the conviction that someday its director, Gus 
Meins, would gain recognition as one of the industry’s 
finest comedy makers. Nobody's Baby is his most recent 
effort, and it is due mainly to Meins’ notable work that 
the production achieves the success it does. Considerably 
strengthened is my conviction about this director. 

Baby is built to create laughs and it succeeded in doing 
this with the preview audience. As I viewed it, however, 
my disposition to laugh was checked somewhat by my re- 
flection that it contains ideal material for the construc- 
tion of a motion picture farce, yet Roach supplied the 
talkie treatment to it. The whole story is told in dialo- 
gue. It could have been unfolded to much better advan- 
tage had a motion picture script been provided. 

Patsy Kelly and Lyda Roberti work well together and 
it is expected that the teaming of the two will prove com- 
mercially successful. A more or less withered orchid to 
those responsible for the songs and dances featured in 
Baby, which, however, possesses some good photography 
by Norbert Brodine. 

Harmed by Its Comedy 

BULLDOG DRUMMOND ESCAPES, Paramount picture and re- 
lease. Directed by James Hogan; associate producer, Stuart Walk- 
er; from a story by H. C. (Sapper) McNeile and Gerard Fairlie; 
screen play by Edward T. Lowe; art direction by Hans Dreier and 
Earl Hedrick; edited by William Shea; sound by Gene Merritt; 
musical direction by Boris Morros; costumes designed by Travis 
Banton; Interior decoration by A. E. Freudeman; photographed by 
Victor Milner. Cast: Ray Milland, Sir Guy Standing, Heather 
Angel, Reginald Denny, Porter Hall, Fay Holden, E. E. Clive, Wal- 
ter Kingsford, Patrick Kelly, Charles McNaughton, Clyde Cook, 
Frank Elliott, David Clyde, Doris Llovd. Running time, 66 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

r HIS one is remarkable in many ways. It is an ana- 
chronism, offering the type of appeal that made Hol- 


lywood famous twenty years ago. Fundamentally, Bull- 
dog Drummond Escapes is sound cinema. Its weakness 
lies entirely in its exaggeration. James Hogan, director, 
striving for the last drop of suspense, has burlesqued his 
action, reducing the sinister mood to unintentional com- 
edy. Had he used restraint, allowing his villains less 
nastiness, fewer funny faces, and had made them normal 
persons instead of bogey men, Bulldog Drummond would 
have been tops in entertainment. 

Even as it is, this film will draw big money if it is 
sensibly released ; shown at small-town theatres and par- 
ticularly at kid matinees, it will give sure-fire results. At 
any odds, Edward T. Lowe’s adaptation of the original 
by H. C. McNeille and Gerard Fairlie, is excellent, 
building a rising suspense with a nerve-jerking climax. 
With superb editing by William Shea and equally fine 
production, Paramount’s reputation for technical excel- 
lence is maintained. 

Ray Milland is competent in the lead and works hard 
for his first feature rating. Sir Guy Standing seems, at 
times, to be self-conscious, but his ability is evident. 
Heather Angel is her own sweet self, Reginald Denny is 
tops, as usual, and E. E. Clive gets the vote for the out- 
standing performance. Porter Hall’s villainy is believ- 
able, and the long cast responds capably to Hogan’s ef- 
forts to develop comedy. 

Alison Skipworth Scores 

TWO WISE MAIDS, Republic picture and release. Leonard 
Fields, associate producer; directed by Phil Rosen; screen play by 
Sam Ornitz; from original story by Endre Bohem; photographed by 
Ernest Miller; film editor, Ernest Nims; Murray Seldeen, supervis- 
ing editor; musical supervision by Harry Grey; sound recorded by 
Terry Kellum. Cast: Alison Skipworth, Polly Moran, Hope Manning, 
Donald Cook, Jackie Searl, Lila Lee, Luis Albemi, Maxie Rosen- 
bloom, Marcia Mae Jones, Harry Burns, Clarence Wilson, Selmer 
Jackson, John Hamilton, Theresa Conover, Raymond Brown, James 
C. Morton, Stanley Blystone, Bob McClung. Running time, 70 
minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

N old story, a not particularly strong plot brought to 
vivid life by the masterful touch of a consummate 
artist. Alison Skipworth makes Two Wise Maids a 
gleaming bit of wisdom. Motivating and dominating 
the entire filmic flow, this movie veteran breathes her 
pungent personality into the somewhat threadbare idea 
of the old school teacher whose kindly savoir faire both 
endears her to her pupils and gets her into trouble. 

Despite its bromidic kernel, Sam Ornitz has done a 
generally workmanlike script of Endre Bohem’s original, 
and had he eliminated the typical Hollywood touches 
(siren-tooting cops escorting kids in stolen cars to save 
our heroine), his job might be pronounced excellent. In 
compensation, however, we are given, with one exception, 
uniformly convincing portrayals, with a really swell job 
of direction by Phil Rosen. Mr. Rosen and Miss Skip- 
worth are an unbeatable team. 

Particularly outstanding in the sturdy cast is the splen- 
did work of Marcia Mae Jones. Its sincerity and depth 
brought a spontaneous burst of applause from the preview 
audience. On the other hand, I was mildly disappointed 
in Polly Moran. Her portrayal lacked sincerity; perhaps 
I had better say she seems ill-adapted to her role. 



Page Twelve 


February 13, 1937 


With competent production by Nat Levine, and effi- 
ciency throughout, Two Wise Maids is admission-price 
value for its direction and for the magnificent character- 
ization by Alison Skipworth. 

Color Complicates It 

WINGS OF THE MORNING, 20th-Fox release of New World 
Pictures, Ltd., production. Robert T. Kane, producer; directed by 
Harold Schuster; screen play by Tom Geraghty; from stories by 
Donn Byrne; Natalie Kalmus, color director; Ray Rennahan, direc- 
tor of Technicolor photography; music arranged by Arthur Benja- 
min; W. Ralph Brinton, art director; costumes by Rene Hubert; 
Henry Imus and Jack Cardiff, cameramen; James Clark, film edi- 
tor. Cast: Henry Fonda, Anabella, Leslie Banks, John McCormack, 
D. J. Williams, Philip Sydney Frost, Stewart Rome, Irene Vanbrugh, 
Harry Tate, Helen Haye, Teddy Underdown, Mark Daly, Sam Live- 
sey, E. V. H. Emmett, Capt. R. C. Lyle, Steve Donoghue. Running 
time, 90 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

r HIS English-Irish Twentieth Century release offers 
the student of cinema a fertile study-text. It graphic- 
ally exemplifies the virtues and weaknesses of color; it 
goes further: Wings of the Morning is a beautiful mix- 
ture — but not a filmic blend. It is a well-knit story and 
a travelogue, in the same footage. 

The two media of filmic expression are dove-tailed art- 
fully, however, each being used to give emphasis to the 
other. For example, the breath-taking beauty of an Irish 
country-side, painting-like in its isolated perfection, forms 
a fitting, if distracting, background for the love-story of 
an Irish earl and a Gipsy princess. The scenes are ex- 
quisite, and we would enjoy them more if we were not 
attempting to rivet our attention on the story. The plot 
itself is refreshingly picquant, but loses considerable vi- 
tality through the strain color imposes on its reality- 
illusion. 

This significant fact is strikingly evidenced in that 
when a purely scenic shot is shown, the color is definitely 
an esthetic aid in establishing a direct visual apprecia- 
tion of the scene’s inherent beauty; it is real, and no illu- 
sion is needed. But when an emotional sequence comes 
on, demanding emotional reciprocation of the audience, 
color dulls the fine edge of imaginary intimacy. The hu- 
man equation becomes top-heavy. 

T 

I HIS sharp difference between the media gives Wings 
of the Morning a definite unbalance and lack of rhythm. 
Naturally there is an evanescent “wheels within wheels” 
impression which eliminates the necessary totality of ef- 
fect. Despite that fact, the story itself is so captivating, 
and the camera effects so forceful, that Wings of the 
Morning is destined for encompassing popularity. 

Speaking of performances, Wings of the Morning has 
nothing else but. Marie, played by Annabella, is a gleam- 
ing jewel. Annabella herself is the sweetest girl ever; 
the kind of young lady we dream about. Irene Van- 
brugh’s interpretation of Marie, grown old, is a fitting 
supplement to Annabella’s queenly performance. Our 
own Henry Fonda gives us his uniformly sincere work, 
adding immensely to the story-appeal. 

Stewart Rome is corking; his likable personality cap- 
tures the sympathy of his audience immediately. The 


cast functions as a smooth, precisely tuned machine, giv- 
ing us as fine an example of histronic unity as Holly- 
wood’s best could offer. The addition of a brief, logically 
introduced appearance by John McCormack adds the 
zest of a further touch of reality to the atmosphere. 

Given superb production by Robert T. Kane, and sen- 
sitively human direction by Harold Schuster, Wings of 
the Morning is bound to win applause. 


Not What It’s Supposed to Be 

TIME OUT FOR ROMANCE, Twentieth Century-Fox. Directed by 
Malcolm St. Clair; associate producer, Milton H. Feld; screen play 
by Lou Breslow and John Patrick; original story by Eleanore Griffith 
and William Rankin; photography, Robert Planck, A.S.C.; art direc- 
tion, Lewis Creber; assistant director, Jasper Blystone; film editor, 
Al De Gaetano; costumes, Herschel; sound, George Leverett and 
Harry M. Leonard; musical direction, Samuel Kaylin. Cast: Claire 
Trevor, Michael Whalen, Joan Davis, Chick Chandler, Douglas Fow- 
ley, Bennie Bartlett, William Griffith, William Demarest, Lelah Tyler, 
Andrew Tombes, Georgia Caine, Vernon Steele, Inex Courtney, 
George Chandler, Fred Kelsey. 

Revievjed by Paul Jacobs 

/ F I had not seen this film at least a dozen times in one 
form or another I doubtless would think it very clever. 
But ever since It Happened One Night, it has been hap- 
pening ever since. Time Out For Romance has none of 
the genuine sparkle and very little of the entrancing 
rhythm of its inspired predecessor; like most copies, it 
caught the form but lost the inner glow. By this I do 
not mean to infer that Time Out For Romance is a poor 
picture. Judged by the queer standards set for class B’s, 
it holds up its end of the program admirably. It is merely 
unfortunate that Time Out For Romance so definitely 
suggests the Gable-Colbert classic — that comparison is in- 
evitable. 

But despite the weak adaptation by Lou Breslow and 
John Patrick, the story by Eleanore Griffith and Wm. 
Rankin has moments of sheer humor. Clair Trevor is 
largely responsible for it, giving us a thoroughly cute and 
convincing picture of the pampered petite who can get 
her man just as competently as her less elegant and more 
primitive sister-huntresses. And by the way, this Time 
Out For Romance convinces me that Fox is grooming 
Michael Whalen for a grab at Clark Gable’s position. 
In a recent version of White Fang he did everything and 
wore everything Gable used in his dog-and-snow picture. 
Michael tries again in Romance and does a business-like 
job of it; but, nice as he is, he is still Michael Whalen. 
Sometime Producer Milton H. Feld should let him play 
Michael Whalen. It would be a lot more convincing. 

^NZ) speaking of things convincing, the direction of 
Malcolm St. Clair is tops. Given a weakly plotted story, 
he has utilized every opportunity for playing up the per- 
sonalities of his cast. Along with Miss Trevor, he literaly 
holds the story up by his clever touches. But despite his 
heroic labor, the thin spots show through. Andrew 
Tombes, for instance, is robbed of opportunity he would 
have skilfully exploited had the plot been logically con- 
cluded. Humor is ladeled out in indiscriminate splashes; 
but so cleverly does Joan Davis do it, and so deftly does 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


Chick Chandler foil it, that we forget its occasional ir- 
relevance. 

Comparable to Happened One Night is the smoothly 
uniform support. Although selection for special com- 
ment is difficult, I think little Bennie Bartlett deserves 
a vote for his vivid bit. In summary then, if you can 
forget that Time Out For Romance is a take-off on a 
vastly better picture, you will come away pleased with 
your box-office investment. 

Cinematic ^Pulse 

By Paul Jacobs 

F OLLOWING up our discussion of originality in the 
last issue of the Spectator, let us see for ourselves 
the reasons behind the dearth of fresh ideas in films. At 
the root of this trouble is the fact that it is thoroughly 
human to follow the line of least resistance. It is easier 
to envisualize life in terms of accepted ideas. For ex- 
ample, it is difficult for the producer, who is accustomed 
to thinking in terms of previous films, to project his mind 
into the purely analytical — to realize that originality is a 
matter of merely re-interpreting the usual and accepted; 
a matter of finding the new meaning, or of attempting a 
more clear and basic envisualization. 

But the trouble goes deeper than simple laziness. It 
lies far beneath the threshold of conscious thought, find- 
ing its roots in the fundamental reflexes of the human 
machine. In short, it is a reflection of the universal de- 
sire for success without effort. From it springs the end- 
less films which concern themselves over the girl who 
seeks and achieves the rich boy; or the many “sudden 
success" stories which tell us about the boy who suddenly 
gets his chance and comes through ; perhaps he is a singer, 
or a dancer, but whatever his forte, he steps from his de- 
sire, directly into fulfillment, without the intervening 
years of effort. 

NoW, these ideas are all right, in themselves, but they 
are so universally prevalent in our sub-conscious, that 
almost everyone writes about them or suggests them. 
What I am getting at is this: The writer or producer 
finds an appreciative chord in himself, toward these worn- 
out ideas; in consequence, they are written constantly, 
and, for the same underlying reason that makes them ac- 
ceptable, they are written without the rejuvenating effects 
of original handling; it is a vicious circle. The some- 
thing-for-nothing idea reflects itself in the treatment. 

For example, the Cinderella story is chosen, and the 
writer begins. In keeping with the something-for-noth- 
ing principle, the vcriter weakens his story by using co- 
incidence in solving the story problem, because it is easier 
than figuring out a logical opportunity for the hero to 
solve it. Or, he injects comedy stuff to cover up the 
thinness of plot. Here, too, is the reason character de- 
lineation is so often weak, and why character-complica- 
tion stories so often are phoney. It is easier to allow the 
story movement to follow the same old track than it is to 
work out the story-logic by thoughtful deliberation. 


SeEKING further, we see that this same, idea-deterio- 
rating source is responsible for the unfortunate attitude 
many producers have toward modernization and sensible 
story-supply methods. They are making money, they pay 
themselves in proportion to what they feel their abilities 
are worth — and yet, because it is easier to do and think 
and accept whatever has already been done and thought 
and accepted, they continue to disregard the magnificent 
potentialities which glitter and beckon from the vast, vir- 
gin fields of cinema exploitation. They are making money; 
and it is easier to repeat themselves than to spend the 
effort necessary to make every film a success. 

With the tremendous, but wasted resources at their 
command, by the intelligent application of cino-dramatic 
law, every picture can embody the ingredients of audience- 
interest; and every picture could bring in double its pres- 
ent rate of return. But they naturally, and humanly, 
prefer to get something for nothing; or, at least, to get 
their comfortable returns for the least possible effort. 
That they can easily double it, or that they owe the pub- 
lic the best possible for the incredible sums they receive, 
escapes them. This reaction is as utterly human as the 
one we have been discussing. Later, we shall apply it 
further. 

W 

if IDENING our analytical scope, we immediately are 
aware that the whole Hollywood fabric is cut from this 
same cloth. Something for the least effort. Hollywood 
is the only industry that does not systematically perpetu- 
ate itself. The old-time lumbermen had the same idea; 
they chopped down every tree without replanting, be- 
cause it was costly to replant. In the long run, their way 
proved much more costly. Today, every industry has its 
specialized schools, from which recruits are selected as 
they are needed. Practically the only school for Holly- 
wood personnel are rackets for fleecing the would-be 
screen writer, director, etc. Public schools are just be- 
ginning to help in a ponderous, academic way. But Hol- 
lywood proper, the source of this need, will have nothing 
to do with it, nothing to offer. It is easier that way. 
Hollywood recruits its staff in the craziest, most illogical 
manner concievable. Something for the least amount of 
effort. 

Again narrowing our focus to the specific, our new 
understanding throws light upon most silly Hollywood 
practices, many of which draw almost universal criticism. 
Among them is the preposterous habit of “typing" players. 
An excellent actor does a convincing characterization of 

NEW PLAYS WANTED 

Must be ultra-modern, novel in treatment, 
professionally typed and registered. Prefer- 
ence given to plays with only one set and 
ten or more characters. Those accepted 
are guaranteed a scenic production with 
selected cast in well-equipped local theatre. 
Phone Harold George, YOrk 0-9-4-4. 


Page Fourteen 


February 13, 1937 


an idiot. From that time on, he gets a call only when 
the producer wants an idiot. For example, a charming 
and talented friend of mine made a tremendous success 
in her first starring role, by her deeply intelligent por- 
trayal of a half-human creature from the nether world. 
She broke her contract, and probably ruined her film 
career, because the producer immediately decided that her 
life must be devoted to horror parts. His decision was an 
up-welling of the same source we have been discussing. 
Her first job was excellently done. It was easier to give 
her what he knew she could do than to experiment in the 
hope of finding her genius capable of versatility. 

T HIS same human weakness has a more subtle mode of 
expression. Whenever anyone reacts to some circumstance 
in a manner he knows to be illogical but pleasant (that is 
to say, more easy), he explains away his action to himself 
by what psychologists call “rationalization.” It is a sub- 
conscious self-justification, in which he soon comes to be- 
lieve his self-offered justifications. Thus, the type of pro- 
ducer we have been discussing eventually is sincere in his 
preposterously unbusiness-like ideas. In this manner he 
convinces himself, for example, that the public really 
wants these worn-out ideas, that to change his bromidic 
treatment of stories would be disastrous. 

The day before this is being written, I sat in the office 
of a man who has complete charge of the story depart- 
ment in a huge studio. When I questioned him on the 
self-evident fact that, with unlimited resources, his organ- 
ization continued to make the same old stuff in the same 
old way, he said just this: “The producer makes his pile, 
we get paid plenty. When I first came here I tried to 
buck the system and turn out something original.” He 
looked at me sardonically. “You see, I came directly from 
the editorial staff of magazine. And I was train- 

ed to the idea that to be usable, a story had to be re- 
freshingly, or novelly handled.” Then he laughed, and 
said: “Don’t quote me. I like my job, and I don’t want 
to lose it. Why should I ? It doesn’t take any brains. 
The producers won’t stand for any new ideas. It might 
make ’em have to think. It’s easier this way.” 

Five ^Per Cent 


By James Brant 

A New Yorker expressed the opinion that the story rated 
*1 five per cent of the box-office value of a finished 
motion picture production and he was backed up by a 
Hollywooder who should have known better and prob- 
ably does. Let us see whether this New Yorker and this 
Hollywooder are two Solomons of motion picture pro- 
duction and exhibition, or whether they are just a couple 
of cockeyed crystal-seers. 

By analogy and comparison is one good way to deter- 
mine the worth and value of any commodity in relation 
to the worth and value of any other commodity. The 
same method holds good in rating individuals. According 
to the two Solomons, the story, and therefore the origi- 
nator, inventor or writer, rates five per cent of the gross 


commercial value of a motion picture, which is a poor way 
to estimate its worth because the real value of any com- 
modity is determined by the net profits from its manu- 
facture and distribution. 

According to their reasoning, Steinmetz, deceased, rated 
a piker in the development of General Electric because, 
forsooth, he was only a common underling who conceived 
new ideas and worked them into finished forms of great 
commercial value. He was, however, not so rated by the 
stockholders and officials of General Electric. 

A writer, not under any consideration a mere word- 
mechanic, capable of inventing new and different ideas of 
drama and new and different method of protrayal, bears 
exactly the same relation to the success of a motion pic- 
ture as an inventive electrical engineer bears to the suc- 
cess of an electric manufacturing company. 

OTHER comparison is in the building of an ocean 
liner. The exact method pursued in such construction is 
not so very important ; the general method used in similar 
construction will be plenty good enough. A greyhound of 
the ocean is conceived in the mind of a single individual, 
an inventive naval architect. By study and reflection he 
selects his ideas and shapes them into form until he has a 
complete mind’s eye picture of the finished vessel. A corps 
of assistants, specialists in various lines, takes his ideas and 
works them into constructive form under his supervision 
and direction. 

The plans are drafted and the specifications are drawn. 
Details are furnished for important items of construction. 
The whole layout is checked, rechecked and checked again 
and again for possible slips. The shipbuilding corpor- 
ation starts construction. The manager of that corpor- 
ation does not build that vessel according to his own 
notion of what and how it should be. He follows plans 
and specifications to the last item and to the last decimal 
point five figures, unless by agreement with the architect 
a change is found advisable. 

The director of a motion picture production corre- 
sponds with the manager of the shipbuilding corporation, 
and the writer, or designer, or inventor of the photodrama 
corresponds with the naval architect. Production under 
such conditinos would involve no curtailment of imagina- 
tion in the director, but would rather afford him greater 


M-E-L W-O-L-F 

SPECIAL EFFECTS 

"BORDERLAND" 

A HARRY SHERMAN PRODUCTION 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


opportunity to show and prove his ability and his work- 
manship. 

It should be apparent that a mere story teller is not 
necessarily a dramatist nor is a dramatic writer necessarily 
a photodramatist. The proper designation for one cap- 
able of designing a motion picture in its entirety might 
be Drama Architect, Screen Architect, Motion Picture 
Architect, or any other term conveying the thought of 
inventive designing. 

T also follows that such a one, to be of the most value 
to production, should have in rather sizable quantity 
practical sense and executive ability. That kind of an 
individual would surely rate better than five per cent. 

Some centuries ago there were a number of stage 
dramas written by a man named William Shakespeare. 
Because within them were a fine quality of sentiment, a 
penetrating wordly wisdom and a beauty of expression, 
those dramas have lived and will continue to live as long 
as the English language exists, and the name Shakespeare 
will live with them. Just who remembers the actors and 
actresses and the stage directors of that time and who 
cares about them? They did not amount to as much as 
one of Shakespeare’s sonnets so far as permanency is con- 
sidered. 

Whenever and wherever there comes into productive 
activity an individual who combines within himself an 
inventive mind, a practical business sense and an organiz- 
ing executive ability, his completed work stands out as a 
monument to his achievement and that will prove to be 
true in motion pictures if such an individual should ever 
become active in that industry. 

The next best thing is an organizing executive, an in- 
ventive writer or designing photodramatist or screen ar- 
chitect and a production manager, all of the first class. 
In a producing organization of that kind the whole play, 
to the last detail, would be on paper before even a move 
was made towards production. The play in complete 
form would stand out as a finished picture to any one 
who had the mental capacity to see it. There would be a 
better selection of plays and better plays produced at a 
low minimum cost and they would undersell, outsell and 
outdraw the present run-of-mine motion picture produc- 
tions, for a tremendous profit. 

HAT remains true in spite of what seems to be the 
prevailing notion that motion pictures are an art set apart 
and exempt from the usual and customary methods of 
building, manufacture and construction. The production 
and exhibition of motion pictures are, at this time, strictly 
a business proposition, established and continued as a com- 
mercial enterprise for the sole purpose of making money, 
and as such are subject to the same common sense prin- 
ciples that apply to other lines of business. 

Common sense indicates that any corporation before, 
not after, but before, it spends or invests its capital, sur- 
plus or income, should know how much money it is go- 
ing to put out, where it is going to go, for what purpose, 
the percentage of success or failure and the probable per- 
centage of profit. 

It is difficult to understand just how a motion picture 


producer can estimate, along the lines just indicated, the 
cost and profit of a photoplay without complete, definite 
and exact plans and estimates before construction work 
is started. 

In the personnel of an organization that could furnish 
such information, there would be one whose work would 
be of the very greatest value for the profitable operation 
of the business — the insignificant, yellow-coated, mangy 
five per cent pup of a designing dramatist. 

(Readers Write 

Mary Is a Bright Girl 

Since it seems to suddenly be the thing to do, let me add my 
bit of praise. I am not a critic, or any such person, but I like 
Mr. Beaton’s comments and I have learned a great deal from 
them. I think the reviews are especially good and very clever. 
I am 14 years old, and in my second year at high school. — 
Mary Richards, Omaha, Neh. 

For the Forgotten Ones 

In reading your issue of January 30, I was greatly interested 
in the two articles on the forgotten actor and actress (reviews 
on A Ve’re on the Jury and Maid of Salem) — Louise Dresser and 
Victor Moore being given a chance to please the theatre-going 
public again. 

Certainly such people who have given their very best to the 
theatre and picture industry should be given opportunities and 
credits, as your article indicates. To my way of thinking, and 
surely to many others, the most pitiful thing is the shabby treat- 
ment accorded the actor and actress in Hollywood that have, 
as I say, given splendidly to the advancement of the picture 
industry of themselves. There are so many allowed to be idle 
and yet the studios keep crying for talent, searching for it, and 
all the while it is right here in their front yard. 

As another example, I have Eddie Quillan in mind. For a 
number of years producers could always count on Eddie in the 
box-office in the marvelous comedies he has made, then they ap- 
parently forgot him. About a year ago they gave this comedian 
a dramatic part in Mutiny on the Bounty and the criticisms he 
received from one end of the country to the other, in the press, 
for this work were equal to any received by anyone in the cast. 
From the critics, the public, the exhibitors and all, came many 
expressions of satisfaction in seeing this young man again on 
the screen and, going so far as to state that from now on he 
should never have an idle moment Yet, what has happened? 
The producers continue to ignore him. Why not have an 
Academy Award for the most neglected and forgotten talent of 
the year? 

In any other business such talent and ability are recognized 
by promotion. Why does the moving picture industry persist in 
thinking that they can ignore such principles of fairness and 
acknowledgement of an employee’s ability? As one of the the- 
atre-going public that pays the price at the box-office, I feel we 
are entitled to more consideration from the industry, rather 
than being subjected to the trash that we have to pay our 
money for and to spend our time hunting so hard for good, 
clean entertainment. — R. M. Buck, Los Angeles. 

She Seems to Like Us 

I am happy to be able to say that the Hollywood Spectator 
is, in my opinion, outstandingly the best magazine in its field. 
I say this not without knowledge. For the past year I have 
been student editor of our dramatics department. And I have 
read every such publication on the market. My teacher agrees 
with me too. — Doris McCullough, Philadelphia. 

# * * 

HEN pictures were silent, people patronized them as 
a matter of habit. The habit will not be restored until 
the entertainment value of class B product is raised far 
above the present level. 



Page Sixteen 


February 13, 1937 



BOOKS AND FILMS 

A Magazine Devoted to Book-Film Cooperation 
Published Monthly except in July and August 

INA ROBERTS & ANTHONY BELLE 
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SCREEN AND FICTION WRITERS: 

Critical Analysis and Personal Instruction 
A Friendly and Informal Service by 

PAUL JACOBS 

Formerly: Member of Anderson College of Writing 
Member Board of Directors 
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Institute of Writing 

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SPECTATOR 

Eleventh Year Edited by WELFORD BEATON 

Volume 1 1 FEBRUARY 27, 1937 No. 24 


Beqinninq a Series of Special 
Articles by the Editor on the 
Fundamentals of Motion Picture 
Production in Their Relation to 
Box-Office Requirements and the 
Demands of the Art of the Screen 


....REVIEWED.... 

LOST HORIZON * WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE * THE KING AND THE CHORUS GIRL 
LOVE IS NEWS * JOHN MEADE'S WOMAN * THE LAST OF MRS. CHENEY 
HER HUSBAND’S SECRETARY * WHEN'S YOUR BIRTHDAY? 
MICHAEL STROGOFF * MURDER GOES TO COLLEGE 


THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


February 27, 1937 



From the 


Ed 


itor’s Easy Chair 


The Editor Is Asked to Explain 

I have been in Hollywood for the past six months only, dur- 
ing which I have been a constant reader of your sometimes 
provocative but always entertaining and instructive Spectator. 
I have found various references to the “illusion of reality,” the 
differences between the stage and the screen, the harm done the 
screen by stage conventions and too much dialogue. Perhaps 
before I became one of your readers you dealt more exhaus- 
tively with these points, but not during the past six months 
have you gone into them comprehensively enough to give me a 
clear idea of what your views are based on. Why not, for me 
and other new readers, something that will brush away the 
cobwebs? — R. B. 

jy B. assigns to me a lengthy task. Since the Spectator 
IV has made any comprehensive statement of its interpre- 
tation of the fundamentals of screen art, its army of 
readers has increased more than threefold, consequently 
I can imagine that many others share R. B’s. desire for 
greater elucidation on various points which have been re- 
ferred to but briefly during the last couple of years. All 
readers of the Spectator are aware it regards stage in- 
fluence as a foreign invasion of the fundamentals of screen 
art, but the majority does not know what process of rea- 
soning leads us to such conclusions. For new readers, and, 
I hope, with the indulgence of old ones, I will set down 
at length my argument for the defendant in Stage vs. 
Screen. It will take several Spectators, perhaps many, 
before the argument is concluded and the case handed to 
the jury. 

First, we must agree upon the fundamentals of the two 
arts, discover how far the points they have in common 
penetrate into their separate and individual internals. 
Superficially, all arts are alike in their esthetic appeal, 
but they differ widely in their individual demands. To 
acquire a comprehensive grasp of the difference between 
the stage and the screen we first must analyze the ele- 
ments of which both are composed. 


Fr E have to reach back across a great many centuries to 
locate the birthday of the art of the spoken drama; 
and the nearest we can come to it then is to discover the 
time when it was grown up enough to attract the atten- 
tion of the earliest historians. Down through all these 
centuries it has come to us with only such changes as the 
thought process of the people demanded. 

Twenty-five centuries ago Greeks were entertained by 
tragedies, comedies and satirical farces, and today audi- 
ences are entertained in theatres by similar dramatic of- 
ferings. So leisurely was the development of the externals 


of the art, it was not until late in the seventeenth cen- 
tury that scenery was introduced in England. 

But however sound the art became, however definite 
its form and true its changes to meet the progressive 
demands of those who patronized it, it never became im- 
portant commercially. The theatre never has been num- 
bered among the imposing industries. It has built no 
factories, employed no armies of workmen. 

As against the twenty-five centuries of the spoken 
drama we have less than half a century of the motion 
picture. Even before it assumed definite form as an art 
it grew to tremendous proportions as an industry. It 
made Hollywood a large city. It caused factories to be 
built to supply its wants. It employed armies of work- 
men, thousands of artists. 


FF HERE one theatre of the spoken drama stood a quarter 
of a century ago, a score of motion picture houses stand 
today. Tens of thousands of communities that never wit- 
nessed a stage play are entertained nightly by motion 
pictures. In a village high up in the Alps I sat in the 
open air one evening and viewed a motion picture that 
two years previously I had seen in a film palace on New 
York’s Broadway. 

In all industrial history there is no other development 
that matches the magic growth of the film industry. In 
the history of amusements there is nothing to match the 
instant acclaim the entire world accorded this new method 
of providing dramatic entertainment. 

And still the stories the screen tells are much the same 
as Thespis told when he introduced the voice in dramatic 
offerings in Attica twenty-five centuries ago. Love and 
hate, passion, jealousy, ambition, fear, covetness, bravery, 
cowardice, integrity, infidelity — they are the elements that 
were mixed in Attica’s yesterday as they are in Holly- 
wood’s today. Thespis used all the plots there are, and 
Hollywood has been unable to find a new one. 

Then why is it that the spoken drama in all its centur- 
ies, merely sounded a minor note in our symphony of liv- 
ing, and the screen drama crashed so suddenly into the 
consciousness of the entire world ? As the two were 
selling the same goods, we must assume that it was the 
package that put motion pictures over. 




E can account for the greater popularity of the screen 
only on the ground that it must have an appeal the stage 
lacks. If they appealed equally, any given center of 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, 
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Hollywood Spectator 
— 


Page Three 


population would have as many theatres as it has picture 
houses. This morning’s Los Angeles papers contain the 
announcements of eighty-six picture houses, and two thea- 
tres in which spoken drama is offered. It is evident, then, 
that the appeal of the two forms of entertainment must 
differ radically. 

When we go to the theatre we are seeking intellectual 
entertainment. We sit in a world in front of the foot- 
lights and outside the proscenium arch, and rivet our 
attention on what is going on beyond them. When Leslie 
Howard appears as Hamlet, we are pleased or displeased 
by the manner in which he, the actor, plays the role; we 
listen to the brilliant lines of Shakespeare and are con- 
scious of the beauty of their rhythm. 

The employment of our intellects is necessary to the 
enjoyment of the play. Before we can sympathize with 
Hamlet and Ophelia, the lines they read must be referred 
to our intellects for interpretation, but by no stretch of 
knaginatien can we persuade ourselves we are looking at 
the real Hamlet and Ophelia. We are conscious all the 
time that whatever satisfaction we derive comes from our 
estimate of the proficiency of the artists playing the roles. 
In such a play as Hamlet it is the manner in which the 
lines are read that challenges our attention. 

In the ordinary drama of today our attention is held 
by the manner in which the story is told in spoken words. 
Here again the appeal is to the intellect. The actors 
move about the stage and relate the plot to us, and we 
must listen attentively to permit our ears to convey the 
words to our intellects for digestion. 

F 

I ROM the earliest days of the spoken drama there has 
been a little chap occupying a seat in the top row of the 
gallery, and every line spoken on the stage has to be 
enunciated clearly enough and loudly enough for him to 
hear it. The hero can not put his lips to the shell-like 
ear of the heroine and faintly whisper, “I love you!” 
as he would in real life. He would be cheating the 
little chap who paid good money for his lofty seat. He 
must project his voice to the farthest customer. 

No matter how dramatic a line may be, no matter how 
heavily freighted with story value, it means nothing to 
our little chap unless he hears it. The necessity of making 
him hear it has forced the stage to develop a method 
of speaking that is all its own and which is heard only 
from behind footlights. So accustomed to it have we 
become, we take it as a starting point for our considera- 
tion of the degree of naturalness that marks a player’s 
performance; we do not go back beyond it and start with 
the realization that his manner of speaking in itself is 
not natural, that he should not declare his love in tones 
loud enough to be heard by anyone except the object of 
his devotion. 

The stage today boasts that it has left forensic feroc- 
ity behind it with other follies of its hoary youth, and 
has acquired a degree of naturalness that makes it more 
impressive; yet, if it ponders the matter frankly, it will 
have to admit that if it really acquired complete natural- 
ness, half of what it says would not be heard by its audi- 
ence. 


JF the little chap were on the stage with the hero and 
* could look into his eyes as he leaned towards the heroine, 
it would not be necessary the line should be heard, as 
the devotion the eyes express in itself would be a dec- 
laration of love. But from his seat in the top gallery the 
little chap can not see the love that lurks in the lover’s 
eyes, and it is only when he hears the line that he 
abandons all suspicion that the hero may be leaning 
forward for the purpose of asking the heroine what time 
it is. 

We see, then, that the stage offers solely intellectual 
diversion, that whatever degree of naturalness we accord 
it is a concession on our part to our readiness to meet 
it half way and overlook its limitations. But we never 
went far enough to pour riches into its lap, to erect tem- 
ples for it in every neighborhood, to build a city as its 
production center and provide it with a lot of swimming 
pools for three thousand-dollar-a-week young people. It 
was the screen we took to our hearts warmly enough 
to shower it with such evidence of our satisfaction. 

Pictures have universal and elemental appeal and the 
earliest ones that primitive man etched on the face of 
clifts depicted motion. But it remained for the motion 
picture camera of to-day apparently to make them move. 
Actually no picture can be given motion, but the per- 
sistency of vision can impart the illusion of motion to a 
series of pictures exposed in quick success. The motion 
picture camera creates this impression. 

u 

ERE for the first time the world was given dramatic 
entertainment that did not rely upon the spoken word for 
clarity of expression, did not present complicated social 
problems to be argued in our presence. No longer did we 
have to sit on the edge of our seats and strain to catch 
each syllable of the villian’s threat. 

We just sat back in a darkened house, listened to music 
and looked at pictures. We entertained ourselves. We 
imagined the shadows on the screen were real people; we 
imagined the farmhouse in the distant background was 
farther from us than the girl in the foreground, when in 
reality, they were both on the same screen, just so many 
feet from the end of our noses. When we saiw the lovers 
talking to one another, our imagination wrote the dia- 
logue and created the sound of their voices. 

And out of the pictures we fashioned stories to suit 
our several fancies. Grandfather attributed to the young 
people on the screen the thoughts, speech and emotions 
of those who were young when he was; mother trans- 
lated the pictures into terms of her own adolescence, and 
little Sally applied to them the knowledge of life she had 
gained in her nine years of existence. Thus each member 
of the family was satisfied. 


i HERE was no straining to catch words, no appeal to 
the intellect. When the hero punched the villain on the 
chin, we did not say to ourselves, “He is punching him 
on the chin.” We merely witnessed the deed and re- 
acted to it emotionally, not intellectually. Thus the 
screen appealed directly to our emotions without the co- 
operation of our intellects, and we enjoyed a complete 


Page Four 


February 27, 1937 


intellectual rest, which made it ideal entertainment for 
those who had wrestled during the day with their various 
social and domestic problems. 

And the absence of footlights and proscenium arch 
allowed us to enter the world of the characters who 
apparently moved upon the screen. To us they were not 
actors. Our imaginations made them real people with 
whom we rubbed elbows. We accompanied them upon 
their adventures no matter how far afield they travelled, 
thus making the illusion of reality complete. We looked 
into the eyes of the characters and read their emotions 
there; we did not have to hear the words they used to 
express their feelings. 

Then came the talkies. Immediately preceding them 
there was a period of lassitude in picture house box- 
offices. It was interpreted in Hollywood as an indica- 
tion that the public was growing weary of silent pictures. 
The truth was that the public was wearying of the kind 
of silent pictures it was getting. 

Hollywood was satiated with the prosperity silent 
pictures had brought it. It grew indifferent. It lay down 
on its job and reduced picture making to an automatic 
grind. The wheels of the studios continued to turn, but 
the product became patternized ; the same old stories were 
told over and over again until the dullest viewer could 
tell, before the first reel was half run, what was going 
to happen in the last. 

Hollywood’s thoughts were on the stock exchange more 
than upon its stages ; its eyes more on the ticker tape than 
upon its winding film. Its indifference, reflected by its 
product, finally made the public indifferent and there 
was a serious lessening of revenue to maintain the ela- 
borate structure the industry had built and pay the gro- 
tesque salaries the world envied. 

Anyone familiar with the fundamentals of screen art 
knew that they were outraged by the introduction of the 
reality of dialogue into an art of the illusion of reality, 
but even one possessing such knowledge could not quar- 
rel with the film industry for its wholesale surrender to 
the new medium while it was in the novelty stage. The 
mission of the industry is to make money, and the early 
talkies made so much that Hollywood lost its head and 
refused to recognize the fact that no market can be main- 
tained by product with a flaw in it. 

HoLLYfVOOD built up a worldwide market by pro- 
ducing a form of entertainment that did not rely upon the 
spoken word, that did not require the exercise of the in- 
tellect, that was visual, that engaged the active co-opera- 
tion of the imagination. By continuing to make talkies 
after their novelty wore off, it showed that it expected to 
hold that market with a product that relied almost wholly 
on the spoken word, that appealed solely to the intellect, 
that is aural, that leaves nothing to the imagination. 

Every picture Hollywood makes to-day is another con- 
fesssion that it never has grasped the secret of its first 
great success. It is unaware that what it offered for sale, 
and what the world so eagerly bought, was an art form, 
a story-telling method unlike any other. If it had grasped 


this fact, it would not have abandoned the form and 
used its cameras for photographing another form that in 
twenty-five centuries did not make one-hundredth of the 
impression on the world that its own form did in twenty- 
five years. 

And when it used its camera to give us pictures of the 
art so foreign to its own, it used its microphone further 
to accentuate the difference between the two by bringing 
to the screen all the artificiality of the stage. It forgot the 
camera brought the little chap from his distant seat into 
the presence of the characters. Its stage actors thought 
he still was in the gallery and addressed their remarks 
to him there. It did not seem to be aware that the mic- 
rophone could make the hero’s whisper of devotion as 
intimate to the girl in the highest gallery seat as to the 
sweetheart by his side. 

D 

UY giving its product purely intellectual appeal, the 
film industry challenged the critical sense of those who 
supported it. Pleasing them with silent pictures was a 
comparatively simple matter, for each patron formed his 
own story from the pictures that moved across the screen. 
The talkies forced their stories on him. 

Hollywood’s complete abandonment of its own story- 
telling method as soon as it was given a device that ena- 
bled it to ape the stage, led it into the further error of 
seeking story material it could not use during its voiceless 
years. It turned its back on the simple stories that had 
made its appeal universal and went over almost wholly 
to material conceived for the stage. It convinced itself 
that at last it had grown up, and sacrificed its tremendous 
children audience to its conviction that only adult product 
fitted its new dignity. 

My personal opinion is that the screen today can pre- 
sent stage plays better than the stage itself can present 
them. The camera can follow the story wherever it leads 
and does not have to make its characters converge to a 
limited number of sets, it can make more intimate scenes 
that are improved by intimacy, and enable its players to 
converse in natural tones. But it is not the mission of the 
screen to present stage plays. Its mission is to present 
motion pictures. I do not mean that it should make silent 
pictures again. There would be no sense in its remaining 
silent when it has a voice. But its voice should be used 
to supplement the camera, not, as it is used now, to sup- 
plant it. 

(In the next Spectator we will discuss Entertainment, 
the reason we seek it, the effect it has on us, what we 
desire from it, and the different manners in which the 
stage and the screen respond to our desire.) 

* * * 

P ICTURES today are made in the cutting rooms, not 
, in sets or on location. A studio thinks nothing of 
shooting twice as much footage as the finished picture 
will contain. Such a thing as a perfect motion picture on 
paper is unheard of, yet no one can persuade me that it 
not only is not possible, but that it is not simple and prac- 
tical. An enormous saving would be effected in all the 
studios if more intelligence were displayed in the prepara- 
tion of scripts. A writer should know if a certain scene is 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


essential and a director should know how much footage 
it would consume, thus making the script a succession of 
essential scenes which would consume a known amount of 
footage. If there be too much footage, it could be brought 
to length in the script with more advantage to the finish- 
ed production than if it were done in the cutting room. 
Of course, the argument is raised that inspiration must be 
allowed to function during shooting, an argument which 
architects might advance during construction to justify 
the erection of eight stories out of which a five-story 
building would be whittled. 

* * * 

FTER a recent preview I saw Bob Taylor plow a 
way for himself and Barbara Stanwyck through a 
horde of autograph hunters, the determinedly negative 
shake of his head being his only response to their pleas 
for signatures. If all the victims of the autograph pest 
had as much sense as Taylor, an end would be put to it. 
The trouble is that the little people who are flattered by 
it, keep it alive and make the big ones, who are bored by 
it, stand the brunt of the attacks. 

* * * 

F ROM Maxwell Aley, editor, Longmans, Green & Co., 
Publishers, New York, comes a letter which makes 
the Spectator editor’s day complete. Mr. Aley tells me 
he is sending two books for me to review, and in course 
of his letter says: “I am deeply interested in the cinema 
as a great popular art — an art that is developing on a 
scale greater and with larger possibilities than any of the 
popular art forms of the past. Which brings me to the 
Hollywood Spectator. For a long time Ruth Aley 
has been at me to start reading its fortnightly issue, but 
being an eye-weary editor when night comes, I resisted. 
Finally about a month ago I started in on some old copies, 
and have now read you through from last August up to 
the present time. May I congratulate you on a fine job? 
I can sense how single-handed it has been, and I suspect 
that at times it has been very difficult. But you are doing 
something that much needed to be done, and doing it 
superbly. I applaud particularly your insistance on mate- 
rial being basically cinematographic, and then treated with 
cinema technique. The photographed novel or play is al- 
most always bad — the play actually worse than the novel, 
for there is a closer relation between the novel and the 
cinema play in their basic forms. Inevitably such sound 
criticisms as yours will have an important effect on those 
who are actually making pictures. At the moment even 
the best of the directors are not entirely sure — they are 
like the earlier novelists, say the 18th Century novelists, 
who had just about everything but weren’t completely in 
control of all of it. Congratulations again, and count me 
among your steadiest readers and certainly among your 
most appreciative.” 

* * * 

NOTE from Jimmie Fidler in reference to my com- 
ments in the last Spectator on his bantam-like strut- 
ting. “And bantam cockiness pays such nice dividends, 
too,” writes Jimmie. It certainly does, and if I could 
approve his methods, I could congratulate him upon their 
results. Jimmie’s value to his sponsor is demonstrated by 
the degree of interest the public displays in his broad- 
casts, the degree, in turn, being demonstrated by the num- 


ber of letters he receives. Here are two facts facing the 
hardheaded Jimmie: If he says something nice about a 
screen person, few letters come in; if he says something 
nasty, his mail is enormous. When he can show his spon- 
sor the enormous mail, the sponsor is satisfied Jimmie is a 
good investment, and when his contract expires he can 
get more money for signing a new one. Jimmie’s note is 
a confession that he utters scathing criticisms only for 
revenue, leaving us to infer that he is more concerned in 
the revenue than in the justice of the comments which 
earn it. Well, that is one way of making money, and 
I suppose Jimmie has got past the point of blushing when 
he endorses his salary check. And I do not hold in great 
respect a sponsor who is satisfied to have his business 
advertised in company with a barrage of comments which 
produce results only when they are bitter and generally 
unjust to those who are made the victims of them. Seem- 
ingly the sponsor does not take into account the fact that 
as the bulk of Jimmie’s mail comes from people who re- 
sent his remarks, it is logical that the product advertised 
should share in the resentment. 

* * * 

HE value of a heritage is the use which the inheritor 
makes of it. The late Irving Thalberg left the film 
industry a rich heritage when he designed The Good 
Earth, his parting gesture before his tired body sought 
eternal rest. What use will the film industry make of it? 
Will it profit by the lesson the great picture can teach it? 
It is the most enlightening example of the sound picture 
presented to the world since the screen became audible. It 
recognizes the camera’s place in screen entertainment. It 
should revolutionize picture making in Hollywood, should 
lead Hollywood back to its real business, that of making 
motion pictures. Even when Irving was producing talk- 
ing pictures which relegated the camera to a secondary 
place, he realized that dialogue was an infraction of the 
basic laws of the screen, that the camera was its only 
legitimate story-telling medium. He once told me he 
fully endorsed the Spectator’s stand for recognition of 
the camera and that the screen finally would have to 
come to it. He heard the music of Shakespeare’s lines in 
Romeo and Juliet and played it on the screen ; he saw the 
emotional sway of The Good Earth and expressed it in 
the screen’s own language. I feel Romeo and Juliet would 
have been his last all-talkie and his future productions 
would have been on The Good Earth pattern. It is a 
simple pattern in the use of which Hollywood was pro- 
ficient before its senses succumbed to the noise it found it 
could make when the microphone injected poison in its 
veins. I am afraid to hope that The Good Earth will 
teach producers anything. It is the voice of a giant telling 
them what to do, a voice now stilled at its source though 
still speaking on the screen, but it is so hard for little 
people to understand giants and profit by what they say. 

4(5 * * 

L ETTING the mind go wandering: The first night 
KNX went on the air a dozen or so years ago, I 
stepped to the microphone and said, “This is KNX, the 
voice of Hollywood.” This identification has been kept 
up ever since. . . . The postman delivers the mail at our 
new San Fernando Valley home at five o’clock in the 




Page Six 


February 27, 1937 


afternoon. I thought all postmen were in bed by that 
time.... A marquee reads: The First Baby, and So 
They Were Married. High time. ... A horse and buggy 
have just driven past our place, a leaf of memory float- 
ing by on the country breeze. . . . During the frigid spell 
I experienced great difficulty in keeping my legs warm. 

. . . Cousin Peg writes us from Toronto that she has be- 
come the mother of the fourth Noel Marshall in her hus- 
band’s family. Her Noel was born on Christmas morn- 
ing. Appropriate. . . . When your fountain pen is not in 
use, let it lie on its side and it always will be ready for 
instant service. ... Bo Peep, Mrs. Spectator’s Pekinese, 
pulls pins out of everything she can find them in. We 
can’t keep these little lace dingbats on the arms of over- 
stuffed chairs. . . . Our milkman gets up at two o’clock 
in the morning, has 208 customers and finishes his route 
at 8 :30 a.m. ... If all of us were worthy of the regard 
in which our dogs hold us, the world would be a better 
place. . . . Raymond Massey is being brought from Eng- 
land to play a part in a Selznick picture. When he ar- 
rives there will be one hundred and one people in Holly- 
wood who could have played the part. . . . Each of these 
mental fragments is first recorded on the nearest piece of 
paper and once a month or so I find perhaps ten per cent 
of them and send them to the printer. Some of them go 
to the laundry, but it is a mystery how the other ones dis- 
appear. All the really brilliant ones never are found. . . . 
Quite dispassionately, without prejudice, not even re- 
motely influenced by the fact of our relationship, I an- 
nounce, state, aver and declare, Wendy, my two-year old 
granddaughter, to be the most beautiful, fascinating, 
adorable and bewitching child in the wide, wide world. 
She has taken a house in the Valley to be near her grand- 
father, and has moved in, bringing two dogs, two cats, 
two parents, one nurse and one canary. I’m on my way 
over to see her. 

• * • 

D AILY papers have it that Stokowski and perhaps a 
few other symphony orchestra leaders may develop 
into motion picture directors. Hasten the day! Once he 
gains a knowledge of screen fundamentals, Stokowski 
should rise to film heights comparable with those he 
reached in the musical world. Hollywood is wrong in its 
conviction that its mission is to photograph stage art. The 
screen and the stage have nothing in common, but there 
is affinity between the screen and music, as the Spectator 
long has maintained. The Good Earth is a symphony of 
movement, a visual tone poem, closely akin to music but 
far removed from the stage. The great motion picture 
directors of the future logically may be recruits from the 
ranks of those who achieve prominence in the screen’s 
most closely allied art. 

* * * 

TU RITES an old subscriber: “You say you like Jimmie 
ff Fidler’s cocksuredness. I like yours. I love the way 
you pat yourself on the back when anything happens that 
you said was going to happen. I have a pretty good 
memory. I recall the fact that when they were unknown 
lassies you predicted big things for Myrna Loy, Jean 
Arthur, Bette Davis and some others. But why remind 
me of it?” Funny thing, this bragging about one’s wis- 
dom as a prophet. I claim it is not an egotistical gesture. 


For instance, if I predict today that within two years Joe 
Doakes will be one of the biggest box-office names in pic- 
tures, the big army of new Spectator readers will attach 
no significance to the prediction. To make it mean any- 
thing to new readers I first have to qualify as a prophet. 
I cite the instance of Myrna, Jean and Bette, or any of 
many more I could mention, to establish the assumption 
that I may be right about Joe — or, in other words, to 
make the prediction worth the time it takes to read it. I 
do not deny that I get quite a lot of smug satisfaction out 
of drawing attention to my prophetic powers, but, strictly 
between you and me, I don’t think much of them my- 
self, because everything I have predicted was so self-evi- 
dent it should have been apparent to everyone. I just hap- 
pened to have a vehicle for recording the prediction. 


*\T that, though, it is interesting to go back from pres- 
ent day facts and find out how they square with yester- 
day’s theories. In the Los Angeles Examiner of February 
12, 1937, Louella Parsons writes: “Ray Milland gets 
nearer and nearer top spot honors. ... I’ve said before, 
but I’ll say again, that Milland is one of the best bets on 
the screen for 1937. He’s going places, and how.” In the 
Spectator of February 24, 193d — three years before al- 
most to the day — I wrote: “Raymond Milland, whom I 
have seen doing so well in several small bits that I began 
to wonder if his personality and ability ever would be dis- 
covered by some astute producer, has an important part in 
Bolero and more than justifies my previously formed esti- 
mate of his screen value. He is ingratiating, good looking 
and clever, and easily can become a great favorite. . . . 
Producers should give him the opportunities he needs.” 
I have no personal interest in Milland, never have met 
him, but what producers see in him now is what I saw in 
him three years ago. I believe my notice was the first he 
got. To me, the most interesting prediction I have made 
was in the case of Evelyn Brent. I saw her in a couple of 
unimportant pictures and devoted the greater part of a 
review to her possibilities. Three years later I saw her 
through the open door of her dressing-room on the Para- 
mount lot where she was one of the most highly paid 
players. I went in and introduced myself to her. She told 
me she was on the point of abandoning her screen career 
in despair when she read my reference to her. “The 
knowledge that one person had faith in me,” she said, 
“made me determined to see it through. I did not write 
a note of thanks to you. I knew some day I would meet 
you and could thank you personally. I have been waiting 
— and today you walk in.” Betty Brent still has what I 
praised in her ten years ago. Her misfortune is that pro- 
ducers do not know it, as they did not know until today 
what Milland had three years ago. 

* * * 

F OR all that she is a daughter of Champion Sand Spring 
Star of Stockdale, which you will agree is really some- 
thing to be the daughter of, Phoebe, my cocker spaniel, 
puts on no airs with me. Early in the morning she scouts 
around me when we go for our morning walk along un- 
paved byways in San Fernando Valley, protecting me from 
attack by gophers, jack rabbits and all other dangerous 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


enemies we encounter; she is lying beside my chair now 
as I write, and tonight, as always, she will sleep at the 
foot of my bed, my first stir in the morning bringing her 
up beside me to paw at the bedclothes I throw over my 
head ; she wants her walk, and a new day’s routine starts. 
Her own blue blood does not make her look down upon 
me. I am to her the greatest human being on earth. I can 
see that in her eyes when she looks at me. Phoebe and I 
— you and your dog — are living motion pictures which 
would warm the heart of the world. Yet to producers, 
dogs in pictures are just nuisances; when they put one in 
they present him as an actor, not as just your dog or mine, 
friends who know all about loyalty and nothing whatever 
about acting. My eagerness to see a real dog picture is 
no new thing. In the volume 1, number 1 Spectator, 
March 20, 1926, one of the leading articles bore the head- 
ing, Isn't It About Time We Had a Real Dog Picture? 
I have been hoping ever since. 

* * * 

f ILM producers, apparently lacking analytical powers 
to think in terms of their business and figure out that 
Shirley Temple logically must head the list of the world’s 
greatest box-office favorites, should start with the fact of 
her being so and think backward until they arrive at the 
reason. Every ill the film industry has suffered was due 
to the complete misunderstanding of the nature of its 

business by those who are in control of it. 

* * * 

O F all the noted singers who have been lured into pic- 
tures none brings to them more native and acquired 
qualifications for a screen career than Gladys Swarthout. 
What Paramount has done to her is a crime. In the hands 
of an intelligent producer she today would be one of the 
leading box-office favorites. Instead, she has been given 
stories not at all suitable to her and asked to do char- 
acterizations into which her personality could not fit. 
Paramount’s trouble was its proceeding upon the convic- 
tion that all Miss Swarthout need do to establish box- 
office value is to fill film theatres with the golden notes 
of her voice and that the parts she had to play between 
songs could be anything giving her plenty of opportuni- 
ties to sing. Personality is the only thing which can 
build and maintain box-office strength. Acting ability 
alone does not make stars. The screen’s greatest stars 
never have been and never will be its greatest actors. 
Neither will singing alone, or dancing, or any other in- 
dividual talent a player possesses, make him a box-office 
star. Such talents can increase the stature of a star, but 
what makes him a star is his personality, the seeds of 
which are born in him, the measure of his success being 
determined by the degree in which his personality has been 
developed. Paramount should not look for stories which 
give Gladys Swarthout opportunities to sing. Its first 
concern should be to make us like her, which means 
selecting stories which match her personality. When we 

like her she can sing anything, and we will like it. 

* * * 

LONG time ago the Spectator registered its first 
protest against the so frequent inclusion of drinking 
scenes in pictures. The Hays organization finally has 
caught up with us. Recently the elimination of such 
scenes from scripts has been added to Joe Breen’s other 


multitudinous chores. It is a queer thing that the film 
industry has to maintain an organization to force upon it 
regard for ordinary good taste. A few years ago the indus- 
try paid no attention to the Spectator when it first 
uttered a warning as to what would happen if the in- 
dulgence in pornography were continued. It was con- 
tinued until the industry had the League of Decency on 
its neck. Pictures are decent today, not because producers 
developed a sense of decency, but because decency was 
forced upon them. A sorry spectacle. 

* •* * 

PPARENTLY it is Hollywood’s intention to ward 
off for as long as possible the inevitable hour when it 
must settle down and make just motion pictures. Its urge 
to shoot biographies is strong within it at the present mo- 
ment. It seems to be proceeding on the assumption the 
public will like such pictures because of their biographical 
content and without regard for their entertainment qual- 
ities. Some of the names mentioned for filmic resurrec- 
tion do not impress me as suggesting much in the way of 
stories. I believe if I were a producer intent upon digging 
up someone to write a story about, I would pick Robert 
Burns, who not only was one of the greatest poets of all 
time, but was also one of the most interesting personal- 
ities in Scottish history. A picture about him would give 
its producer a chance to bring to American audiences 
something they would like to see — some of the picturesque 
scenery in which Scotland abounds, the locality in which 
Burns was born and lived being rich in photographic pos- 
sibilities. The poet’s works could figure largely in the 
exploitation of such a production. 

* * * 

O UR film barons assure us the public wants new faces 
on the screen. The new faces are sought on the stage, 
the worst possible training ground for one desiring a 
career as a screen player. Before the new faces develop 
film box-office value they have to be old faces, so it looks 
to me as if it would be wiser to get along with the stock 
of old faces already on hand and not waste so much time 
just sitting around waiting for a new face to become old 
enough to firing money into the box-office. 

• * * 

HEN I told a producer the other day that I thought 
there was too much talking in the latest picture he had 
made from a Broadway play, he asked me how he could 
have put the play on the screen except by using the dia- 
logue in the original. I reminded him that when pictures 
were silent some of his successful productions were screen 
versions of stage plays. He countered that with the silli- 
est argument ever advanced to justify the talkie — that the 
public demands dialogue. The public demands only en- 
tertainment. It wants to know what is happening on the 
screen, and if it is necessary to its understanding that it 
should hear spoken lines it must hear them, but it would 
be pleased better if the stories gave it less to listen to and 
more to see. In turning its business over to dialogue writ- 
ers the film industry made a grave mistake. It is making 
money now, but if it would get back to its business of 
making motion pictures, its profits would make today’s 
balance sheets convey the impression that the depression 
days were back again. 





Page Eight 


February 27, 1937 


Some Late ^Previews 

Gives the Screen New Dignity 

LOST HORIZON, Columbia release of a Frank Capra produc- 
tion. Stars Ronald Colman. Features Jane Wyatt, John Howard, 
Margo, Thomas Mitchell and Edward Everett Horton. Screen play 
Ey Robert Riskin; from novel by James Hilton; directed by Frank 
Capra; musical director, Max Steiner; musical score by Dimitri 
Tiomkin; photography by Joseph Walker; aerial photography, Elmer 
Dyer; technical adviser, Harrison Forman; film editor, Gene Hav- 
lick; special camera effects, E. Roy Davidson and Ganahl Carson; 
art director, Stephen Goosson; costumes, Ernst Dryden; voice, Hall 
Johnson Choir. Supporting cast: Isabel Jewell, H. B. Warner, Sam 
Jaffe, David Torrence, Hugh Buckler, Val Durand, Milton Owen, 
Willie Fung, Victor Wong, John Burton, John Miltern, John T. Mur- 
ray, Dennis D'Auburn, Noble Johnson, John Tettener, Matthew 
Carlton, Joe Herrera, Margaret McWade, Ruth Robinson, Carl 
Stockdale, Wryley Birch, Richard Masters, Alex Shoulder, G. Kalili. 
Running time, 125 minutes. 

N extraordinary demonstration of the tremendous 
sweep screen art can attain, a production of magni- 
tude and impressiveness, a powerful sermon on right liv- 
ing, preached in a fascinating setting and coming at a 
time when the world sadly needs the lesson it teaches — 
such is Lost Horizon , one of the most meritorious of all 
the long succession of screen offerings Hollywood has 
given the world, an ambitious undertaking for a studio to 
attempt, and right nobly has Columbia realized its possi- 
bilities. To Harry Cohn for his bravery, to Stephen 
Goosson for settings of scenic grandeur, to Robert Riskin 
for a brilliantly written screen play, and to Frank Capra 
for another such exhibition of the Capra direction, are 
due recognition for jobs well done. 

The cast is worthy of the physical and literary merits 
of the vehicle in which it is presented. Ronald Colman’s 
performance is the best of the many which have made him 
a worldwide favorite. The part evidently was to his lik- 
ing. He gets inside it, understands it, and plays it easily, 
effortlessly and with deep sincerity. It is a cinematic per- 
formance, its greatest moments being in close-ups which 
graphically depict his inward struggle to master the con- 
flict in his mind. No words he could utter could have 
made his thoughts clearer to the audience. The other 
members of the cast amply sustain the high acting stand- 
ard he sets, all the performances being artistic bits of a 
completely harmonious pattern. Capra’s direction of his 
players reveals outstanding skill. 


Leisurely, because we can put down a book at will, we 
feasted on its literary charm, drank of its poetic flavor, 
and each of us visualized its description to suit his indi- 
vidual fancy. Riskin and Capra, between them, have 
caught the literary charm of the book ; Goosson has trans- 
lated the descriptions in physical terms which are express- 
ed with artistic impressiveness by Joseph Walker’s cam- 
era, with the result that the perfect blending of all the 
elements of the three arts of literature, architecture and 
the drama gives us a rare intellectual treat. But I cannot 
recall a screen offering with purely intellectual appeal 
having earned hearty box-office response, a picture which 
pursued such a leisurely course having gained wide popu- 
larity. 

f 

1 OR all that it has physical attributes both thrilling 
and visually spectacular, the story has few of the com- 
plications of which successful motion pictures are made. 
A party of conflicting personalities is kidnaped by air- 
plane, conducted to a spot far beyond our conjectural 
boundary of civilization, all but two remain there, the two 
fight the elements on the way out, one perishes, the other 
eventually fights his way back. That is the story, and all 
the action points to its justification. It is a philosophical 
treatise rather than the sort of elemental drama we are 
trained to expect in a film theatre. Its philosophy is men- 
tally fascinating, but belongs more in a book than upon 
the screen. Its denial of action in expounding its philos- 
ophy, its lack of physical progress while its mental phase 
is being developed, can make a book engrossing, but makes 
a picture drag. From a purely screen standpoint, Lost 
Horizon is too long. 

But there is much in it that long will be remembered — 
the beauty of many of its speeches, Sam Jaffe’s reading of 
those which fall to him, the intelligent comedy of Edward 
Everett Horton, the sustained rebellion of young John 
Howard, the remarkably expressive performance of H. 
B. Warner, the sweetness and understanding of Jane 
Wyatt, the pathos of Isabel Jewell, the smoldering fire 
of Margo, the humanness of Thomas Mitchell, the livid 
bits contributed by many more, particularly that of David 
Torrence, an actor of great ability who is the victim of 
great neglect by those who hire ability. 

You cannot afford to miss it if you take an intelligent 
interest in the progress of the screen, for Lost Horizon 
is one of the landmarks on the course it has pursued to 
date. 



HAT EVER Columbia could do to make the story a 
success on the screen has been done brilliantly, painstak- 
ingly, thoroughly, and without regard for cost. It was a 
grand thing for Harry Cohn to do and he has done it 
superbly. But whether he and Capra were wise in their 
selection of story material, presuming, of course, their ob- 
ject was to produce a box-office success, remains to be 
seen. The book from which the screen play was written 
won wide popularity by virtue of the charm of the auth- 
or’s literary style; he conducted us on a long journey to 
a fascinating destination built of his dreams, and there he 
expounded his views on our social existence, diagnosed its 
ills and prescribed a remedy. 


Mervyn in a Merry Mood 

THE KING AND THE CHORUS GIRL, Warner Bros, picture. A 
Mervyn LeRoy production. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy; assistant 
director, Arthur Lueker; original screen play by Norman Krasna and 
Groucho Marx; music and lyrics by Werner R. Heymann and Ted 
Koehler; photography by Tony Gaudio, A.S.C.; film editor, Thomas 
Richards; art director, Robert M. Haas; gowns by Orry-Kelly; mu- 
sical director, Leo F. Forbstein; production numbers staged by 
Bobby Connolly. Cast: Fernand Gravet, Joan Blondell, Edward 
Everett Horton; Alan Mowbray, Mary Nash, Jane Wyman, Luis Al- 
berni, Kenny Baker, Shaw and Lee, Lionel Pape, Leonard Mudie, 
Adrian Roseley. 

ORTH twice as much as you will be asked to see it 
even in the most expensive house. For one thing, it 
introduces a new player you will be charmed to meet. 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


Fernand Gravet, assuming he sticks at it, soon will be 
one of our greatest box-office stars. For another thing, it 
brings us a new Joan Blondell, a girl who demonstrates 
her ability to hold up the feminine end of a picture 
against the stiffest masculine competition. And then the 
direction of Mervyn LeRoy atones for the poor job he 
did when he photographed the Three Men On a Horse 
play. The King and the Chorus Girl is very much Mer- 
vyn. He found Gravet and brought him to this country. 

The Frenchman has everything — youth, good looks, 
grace, acting ability, knowledge of how to wear clothes, 
and not even a trace of foreign accent to remind us he is 
not one of us. I have been wondering when Joan was 
going to be given an opportunity to do something better 
than the parts she has been playing. She has that indis- 
pensable photographic personality out of which motion 
picture stars are made; she feels the part she plays, the 
devilment, humor, pathos of it, and the camera brings it 
to us. Warners would be wise in casting her only in im- 
portant pictures. Given the opportunities, she soon would 
establish herself as a star. 

T 

M HE story of the picture is really about but four people, 
the other two being Mary Nash and Edward Everett 
Horton. Miss Nash is a most accomplished actress and 
makes a big contribution to the production. Horton’s 
career has to its credit the making of such a long name so 
well known. The greatest compliment I can pay his pres- 
ent performance is that it is up to his established stand- 
ard. A jerk of his head is more eloquent than the sus- 
tained speech of the majority of comedians. Alan Mow- 
bray and Louis Alberni, in brief appearances, do much to 
add to the joyousness of the offering. 

LeRoy’s direction is deft, fluent, and reveals a keen 
sense of humor. A disposition to permit Gravet to read 
lines too loudly is the only weakness of an otherwise per- 
fect job. I understand this is Mervyn’s first production 
under his contract as an independent producer. If we 
may accept it as a sample of what he is going to give us, 
we can look forward to some highly entertaining pictures. 
His choice of story for Gravet’s American debut could 
not be wiser, permitting, as it does, the Frenchman to 
display a wide assortment of wares. Norman Krasna and 
Groucho Marx are to be credited with a fine piece of 
screen writing, Robert Haas with a series of outstanding 
sets and Tony Gaudio with artistic photography. 

Bobby Connolly gives us some striking dance spectacles, 
and Leo Forbstein has provided the production with a 
musical score which is a big factor in making it so en- 
joyable. Kenny Baker’s singing also is a feature. 


Columbia Presents Riskin 

WHEN YOU'RE IN LOVE, a Columbia picture. Story based on 
an idea by Ethel Hill and Cedric Worth; written and directed by 
Robert Rislcin; assistant director, Arthur S. Black; photography, 
Joseph Walker, A.S.C.; sound engineer, Lodge Cunningham; film 
editor, Gene Milford; musical director, Alfred Newman; art direc- 
tor, Stephen Goosson; gowns, Bernard Newman; production en- 
sembles staged by Leon Leonidoff, courtesy Radio City Music Hall; 
associate producer, Everett Riskin; musical credits, OUR SONG, 
music by Jerome Kern; THE WHISTLING BOY, lyrics by Dorothy 
Fields; MINNIE THE MOOCHER, music by Cab Calloway; lyrics 


by Irving Mills and Clarence Glaskill; arrangement by Al Siegel; 
SERENADE, Schubert; IN THE GLOAMING, Annie Harrison; 
SIBONAY, Lecuona. Cast: Grace Moore, Cary Grant, Aline Mac- 
Mahon, Henry Stephenson, Thomas Mitchell, Catherine Doucet, 
Lu is Alberni, Gerald Oliver Smith, Emma Dunn, George Pearce, 
Frank Puglia. 


II JRITTEN and directed by Robert Riskin. He started 
rF with an idea and made it into screen entertainment. 
When it was announced that Riskin, the writing member 
of the Capra-Riskin team, was to become a director with- 
out ceasing to be a writer, the Spectator predicted a suc- 
cessful career for him, pointing out that the author of a 
screen play was the logical person to make a picture from 
it. When a screen writer puts a scene on paper, he sees it 
on his mental screen exactly as it should be shot in rela- 
tion to the other elements of the story. To preserve the 
unity of the creation the audience should get the scene as 
he sees it, provided always, of course, that his script is a 
good one. When it is given to someone else to direct, it 
will be shot, naturally, to conform to his conception of 
the scene, not the writer’s, a fact which explains why 
many inherently good stories come to the screen as poor 
motion pictures. When more writers become directors and 
more directors become writers, we should have better 
pictures. 

Riskin’s direction bears none of the earmarks of inex- 
perience. It is consistent, assured, intelligent, and puts 
him at one jump into the ranks of directors to whom we 
can look confidently for a series of pictures of high enter- 
tainment quality. Both in the script and in its interpreta- 
tion a lively sense of humor is displayed, the production 
sparkling with witty touches which, combined with its 
other elements, make it delightfully entertaining. 


•’ HILE one could wish for less reliance on dialogue 
than Riskin displays in carrying his story forward, When 
You’re in Love is a noteworthy example of talkie con- 
struction. It is by long odds the best picture in which 
Grace Moore has appeared and will rank in popularity 
with her first, One Night of Love , which owed a great 
deal of its success to the fact of its being the initial offer- 
ing of a grand opera singer as a screen star. Riskin 
cleverly manages to work in the musical numbers as 
integral parts of the story, not as impediments to its 
forward progress as they have been in all other pictures 
of the sort. And he wisely refrains from giving us too 
many of them. 

Another outstanding merit of the script is the impres- 
sion it gives that it is not taking Miss Moore’s voice too 
seriously, thus leaving to us the discovery of its charms. 
The star is presented as a woman in love with a man. 
As such we become interested in her. She happens to be 
a great singer. That is interesting, but not overly im- 
portant. She sings a half dozen times, and because we 
like her, and for the added reason that she sings things 
we like — In the Gloaming, Schubert’s Serenade, a de- 
lightful song for children — her voice charms us and we 
like her more than ever. She makes no effort to over- 
whelm us with her singing, to exploit her singing tech- 
nique. 


Page Ten 


February 27, 1937 


O NE of the star’s contributions, the one which prompted 
the preview audience to applaud long and vigorously, 
was her inimitable singing of the rowdy song, Minnie the 
Moocher. That one number will be remembered after 
we have forgotten what else she sang. Its interpolation 
was a stroke of genius on the part of Riskin, and it, like 
everything else, fitted smoothly into place as part of the 
story. It did more to characterize Miss Moore, to make 
her popular with the audience, than any other incident in 
her performance. It proved that she really was a good 
fellow, for all that the world hailed her as a great 
singer. 

But when we come to performances we must put the 
crown on Cary Grant’s brow. When You’re in Love is 
his picture. He plays a lovable, impractical, irresponsible 
artist, and puts into his characterization zestful under- 
standing which makes it a delight. A brilliantly written 
part, brilliantly played, it will bring to Cary recognition 
as an actor of first importance. He was fortunate in be- 
ing directed by the man who put the characterization on 
paper, and Riskin was fortunate in having a man who 
brings so graphically to life the part as it was written. 
Aline MacMahon, in that quiet way which suggests dy- 
namic artistic ability underlying it, makes a big contribu- 
tion to the excellence of the acting. Emma Dunn is an- 
other who makes her presence felt. The whole cast, in 
short, is in every way satisfactory. I am developing a 
liking for the acting of Thomas Mitchell. 

0-NLY in one sequence did Riskin fail to develop all 
possible values. Grant takes Miss Moore to a spot in the 
country to acquaint her with the real values of life — 
majestic trees and their whispering branches, birds and 
the songs they sing, the sweet smell of things which grow 
in the shade of sylvan glens. The grand opera singer gets 
the mood of the setting, leans against a tree and sings a 
beautiful number, the words of which were written by 
Dorothy Fields and the music by Jerome Kern. The se- 
quence gets its values from the beauty of the song and the 
mood of the location, yet it is largely a series of close-ups 
of the two people in it, one singing, the other listening. 
After the two are established, we should not see them 
again ; we should see only shots of the surroundings, par- 
ticularly a long shot bringing out the majesty of the 
forest and the relative unimportance of the two humans, 
two little things we glimpse in the distance. There is no 
cinematic demand for even one of the close-ups. 

Columbia has given the picture a splendid production. 
Stephen Goosson’s skill being responsible for some highly 
attractive settings. All Joseph Walker’s photography is of 
a high order, but some of the outdoor shots are breath- 
taking in their beauty. In the woodland sequence referred 
to above, there are several cuts from the two people to 
different wild things which live in the forest, scenes which 
must have been shot under a wide variety of conditions, 
yet all are lighted alike and the quality of the photography 
is even throughout. 

All in all, When You’re in Love is one of the better 
pictures you cannot afford to miss. And you should put 
yourself in a position to say, a few years hence when all 


of us will be talking about him, that you saw the first 
picture Bob Riskin directed. 

It Has Complications Plus 

LOVE IS NEWS, 20th Century-Fox. Associate producers, Earl 
Carroll and Harold Wilson; director, Tay Garnett; story, William 
R. Lipman and Frederick Stephani; screen play, Harry Tugend and 
Jack Yellen; photographer, Ernest Palmer; musical director, David 
Buttolph; film editor, Irene Morra; assistant director, Booth Mc- 
Cracken. Cast: Tyrone Power, Loretta Young, Don Ameche, Slim 
Summerville, Dudley Digges, Walter Catlett, George Sanders, Jane 
Darwell, Stepin Fetchit, Pauline Moore, Elisha Cook, Jr., Frank Con- 
roy, Edwin Maxwell, Charles Williams, Julius Tannen, George Hum- 
bert, Frederick Burton, Charles Coleman, Paul McVey, Carol Tevis, 
Ed Deering, George Offerman, Jr., Wade Boteler, Maidel Turner, 
Dorothy Christy. 

O NLY extraordinarily clever screen writing and unusu- 
ally brilliant direction could crowd into one screen 
offering as many incidents as Love Is News contains, and 
keep them from telescoping the thing into a filmic blur. 
As much happens in one reel as generally happens in a 
whole picture, complication coming hot on the heels of 
complication to make one of the most joyous parades of 
comedy situations any audience could wish for. The pic- 
ture scintillates with humor of a genuine, clean sort and 
must be rated among the top comedies of recent years. 
Following the story is a fascinating pastime. It is like 
climbing unwearily a flight of softly carpeted steps, ex- 
pecting each to be the last and that after that the going 
will be straight ahead. But the last step is the final fade- 
out, each preceding one being a fresh complication which 
makes you wonder what the next one possibly can be. 

It takes expert direction to make a story of that sort 
into a completely satisfactory picture. It moves so fast 
the director must be on the alert to develop his character- 
izations, to keep his players from being merely jumping 
jacks and not rational human beings intent on the task of 
working their way out of the extraordinary situations 
which come with such bewildering rapidity. Tay Gar- 
nett’s direction is inspired. He has handled skilfully a 
wide variety of stories but never before was given such an 
opportunity to display a sense of humor comparable with 
that which makes Love Is News such joyous entertain- 
ment. It easily could have been confusing, but Tay car- 
ries it forward speedily, smoothly and logically, and car- 
ries us along with it without putting a strain on our at- 
tention. It gives him rating as an outstanding comedy 
director to add to his previously earned laurels along 
other lines. 

YRONE POWER has top billing, and richly earns 
the distinction. Handsome in a manly way, young, intel- 
ligent, he is destined to become a star of major importance, 
the impression he will make in this picture being a long 
step in that direction. His role demands of him a wide 
variety of emotional reaction, and he proves himself mas- 
ter of all its moods. Loretta Young never before shone 
with quite such brilliancy. Lovely to look at, wearing 
clothes in a manner further to dignify their dignity, re- 
vealing keen appreciation of the full value of all her 
scenes, her performance will add to the already large army 
of those who admire her. Don Ameche, as the harassed 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


city editor of the newspaper story, proves himself a rare 
comedian, a really brilliant performer also destined to 
achieve wide popularity. In the flock of characters who 
are involved in the complications, Walter Catlett stands 
out as an able laugh-getter. One of our most accomplish- 
ed comedians, it is gratifying to see that Century is giv- 
ing him opportunities to add considerably to the box-office 
value of its productions. 

The story is an ingenious one. Loretta plays America’s 
richest girl whose daily doings are recorded in your morn- 
ing paper; she is sick of the publicity persecution; Power 
is her chief persecutor and to get even with him she gives 
his competing papers a story which brings him into the 
publicity light he has been shedding on her. She an- 
nounces her engagement to Power and her pre-nuptial 
gift to him of one million dollars. And that starts some- 
thing. He is followed even into his bath by people who 
want to sell him things. You can imagine the complica- 
tions which could ensue, but you cannot imagine how 
many do or how funny they are. So I think you had 
better see Love Is News. 

When Comparison Is Odious 

JOHN MEADE'S WOMAN, Paramount release of B. P. Schulberg 
production. Stars Edward Arnold and Francine Larrimore. Features 
Gail Patrick, George Bancroft, John Trent, Aileen Pringle and Sid- 
ney Blackmer. Directed by Richard Wallace; story by John Bright 
and Robert Tasker; screen play by Herman Mankiewici and Vincent 
Lawrence; photographed by Harry Fischbeck; art direction, Albert 
D'Agostino; musical direction, Boris Morros; original music, Fred- 
erick Hollander; sets, George T. Nicoll; film editor, Robert Bischoff; 
assistant director, Ray Lissner. Supporting cast: Willard Robertson, 
Jonathan Hale, Stanley Andrews, Harry Hayden, Robert Strange. 
Running time, 88 minutes. 

O NE you should see. It is one of the honest, sincere 
productions we have learned to expect from Ben 
Schulberg who appreciates that in the film business money 
must be spent to make money. All its physical elements 
convey the impression that the producer was actuated by 
a desire to give us full value for our money. My consid- 
eration of the other values of John Meade's Woman was 
influenced by the fact of my having seen it so soon after 
seeing The Good Earth, a picture which demonstrates the 
ease with which a screen story can be told by the camera. 
The Meade story is told entirely in dialogue, a treatment 
which, by virtue of being a purely intellectual approach, 
challenges one’s critical faculties. Before The Good Earth, 
I was reconciled to the talkie form and could estimate 
the values of a dialogue picture with a more open mind 
than I am afraid I will be able to bring to bear on a 
talkie until the influence of the Metro picture wears off. 

So I tell you to see John Meade's Woman if for no 
other reason than the stimulation it will give your critical 
sense. As for the completeness of the satisfaction it will 
give you, I refer you to the unqualified praise other re- 
viewers have given it, and I advise you to be guided more 
by their opinions than by mine. 

HE most interesting feature of the production is the 
presence in the cast of Francine Larrimore, an engaging 
young woman from the stage without any previous experi- 
ence in pictures and who is presented as co-star. Her stage 


reputation is established, and to the screen she brings her 
stage art, giving a fine stage performance with little sug- 
gestion of the screen in it. I admired her technique but 
she did not molest my emotions. It was not altogether 
her fault. Her part was written poorly, providing her 
with two drinking sequences which made it hard for me 
to sympathize with her. We see her first as a country 
girl who apparently had spent all her life on a farm ; and 
as soon as she reaches the city she seems at home with her 
elbows on a bar and ordering whiskies straight. 

On the stage an attractive young woman can enact a 
drunken scene without sacrifice of audience sympathy. We 
are aware, even though subconsciously perhaps, that she 
is an actress impersonating a drunken woman. If in a 
film theatre we become conscious we are looking at ac- 
tors, the picture has failed to develop the illusion of real- 
ity it must develop to be a worthy example of screen art. 
In her opening sequence we regard Miss Larrimore as a 
country girl, not as an actress, and her misfortunes earn 
our sympathy. When she becomes drunk, she is not to 
us an actress skilfully enacting a drunken scene; she is 
the simple country girl gone wrong, and thereafter we 
merely sit back and look at her without being disturbed 
by her sorrows. Therein lies the difference between the 
appeals of the stage and the screen. 

kbCREEN art is suggested by the performance of George 
Bancroft who carries off the acting honors of the produc- 
tion. Easy, natural, convincing, he is the lumberman, not 
the actor, and is the only one among the principals who 
strikes a human note. Edward Arnold is not impressive. 
One grows weary of his bursts of laughter for which 
there is no excuse. The screen should be noisy only when 
noise cannot be avoided, only when the story point can 
be brought out in no other way. 

In this picture there is a sequence in which Arnold de- 
velops a chuckle into a roar in which he is joined by Ban- 
croft and Miss Larrimore. The sequence would have been 
better motion picture and far more entertaining if all 
three had indulged in wide grins. There is no excuse for 
the uproar. Gail Patrick, who seems to be growing even 
more beautiful with each picture, graces this one with her 
presence and adequately handles a rather unsympathetic 
part. Sidney Blackmer always has impressed me as being 
one of the most intelligent and accomplished actors in 
pictures. Entirely without self-consciousness, he so com- 
pletely is the person he plays that we are apt to deny him 
the credit due him for his valuable contribution to every 
production in which he appears. 

The story of John Meade's W oman could be better. 
The picture makes me imagine the story got out of hand 
and that difficulty was experienced in ending it effectively. 
Arnold makes his Meade an unscrupulous, dynamic cap- 
tain of industry who rides roughshod over his victims, de- 
ceiving even the girl he marries, a girl, incidentally, much 
too young to make the romance convincing. The picture 
ends abruptly on his assertion that he will right the 
wrongs he had committed, and we leave the theatre with 
the conviction that as soon as he is up and around again 
he will be back at his old tricks. 


Page Twelve 


February 27, 1937 


The Very Last of Mrs. Cheney 

THE LAST OF MRS. CHENEY, M.G.M. Producer, Lawrence 
Weingarten; director, Richard Boleslawski; play, Frederick Lonsdale; 
screen play, Leon Gordon, Samson Raphaelson and Monckton Hoffe; 
photographer, George Folsey; musical score, Dr. William Axt; film 
editor, Frank Sullivan; assistant director, Eddie Woehler. Cast: 
Joan Crawford, William Powell, Robert Montgomery, Frank Mont- 
gomery, Frank Morgan, Jessie Ralph, Nigel Bruce, Colleen Clare, 
Benita Hume, Ralph Forbes, Aileen Pringle, Melville Cooper, Leon- 
ard Carey, Sara Haden, Lumsden Hare, Wallis Clark, Barnett Parker. 

r HIS, undoubtedly, will be the last of Mrs. Cheney as 
a screen attraction. Beautifully mounted, brilliantly 
cast, well directed, The Last of Mrs. Cheney is dead on 
its feet, the most uninteresting piece of screen entertain- 
ment I have seen in a long time. The only really interest- 
ing thing in it is the hat Joan Crawford wears in the 
opening sequence and the striking hairdress upon which it 
perches — quite like a saucy Zulu hut in a curly jungle. 
When Joan first donned it, a ripple of comment floated 
across the audience. But the hat serves a useful purpose : 
it gives me a text for another short cinematic sermon, the 
theme of which has grown aged in these pages, necessitat- 
ing my dressing it up in new words in an effort to cover 
its wrinkles. 

There are some fundamental laws which apply to all 
arts. One of the most important is that no element should 
isolate itself and draw attention to itself as something 
apart from the remainder of the composition. The mo- 
ment Joan dons her hat we forget everything else and 
think only of it. When an art creation as a whole has to 
compete for our attention with one of its elements, we 
have an example of poor art. The strength of the creation 
lies in the coordination of all its parts, in the unity it 
establishes and maintains. A drummer’s drumming may 
in itself be a perfect example of the drummer’s art, but 
if it is loud enough to drown out the other instruments, 
the symphony becomes a poor example of musical art. 
Now let us get back to the Metro picture. 

T 

1 HE story is an old one built on the psychology of its 
times. It asks us to take to our hearts a nice looking 
young woman who ingratiates herself with a British duch- 
ess for the purpose of stealing her pearls. It is a comedy 
of repartee in glad rags and rich surroundings, of a gang 
of crooks and a group of smart people. I do not know 
how much the fact of my knowing the story affected my 
consideration of the picture as entertainment. Usually 
such knowledge is not a bar to my enjoyment if in the re- 
telling the job is a good one; I still can cheer the heroine 
and hiss the villain. But the new Mrs. Cheney left me 
cold all the way through, creating in me no impulse either 
to cheer or to hiss. 

For one thing, the production was over-built. No one 
could accept the ultra-modern interiors as the ancestral 
home of a British duchess. Told in a true old-world set- 
ting, with ancient family retainers hobbling about in it, 
with Van Dyked former dukes hanging soberly on the 
walls and ancient armor doing sentry duty in the corri- 
dors, the modern crook drama might have gained luster 
from the setting’s glamor. 

For another thing, not the slightest effort was made to 
develop the cinematic values of the story. It is a photo- 


graph of the play told merely with greater geographical 
sweep. It cackles all the way through and the cackles are 
devoid of interest as such. The performances are unin- 
spired. I understand Metro is thinking of doing more 
revivals. I hope it will profit from the fact that the smell- 
ing salts it put under Mrs. Cheney’s nose to revive her 
were not quite strong enough. 


Thanks to Good Direction 


HER HUSBAND'S SECRETARY, Warners. Associate producer, 
Bryan Foy; director, Frank McDonald; dialogue director, Reginald 
B. Hammerstein; story, Crane Wilbur; screen play, Lillie Hayward; 
photographer, Arthur Todd; film editor, Clarence Kolster; assistant 
director, Carrol Sax. Cast: Jean Muir, Beverly Roberts, Warren 
Hull, Joseph Crehan, Clara Blandick, Addison Richards, Harry 
Davenport, Gordon Hart, Minerva Urecal, Pauline Garon, Stuart 
Holmes. 

7 HERE really was no reason why Bryan Foy should 
not make it again. Every studio makes it at intervals 
and Warners had not made it for quite some time; so 
Crane Wilbur took the private secretary and her em- 
ployer’s wife and wrote them into another screen story 
which is related to us in a talkie called Her Husband’s 
Secretary. As only censorable things have been left to be 
said about a secretary and her boss, Wilbur said all the 
old things over again and added a forest fire which none 
of the other authors of the story happened to have thought 
of. Warners built a nice production for it, very nice in- 
deed; and Bryan Foy provided for the leading parts three 
young people who have personality, ability and good 
looks ; and for the other roles seasoned veterans who know 
their stuff. 

But the wisest thing Bryan did was to select Frank 
McDonald to direct the oft-told tale. For all that there 
is nothing new in it except the forest fire, Her Husband’s 
Secretary comes to the screen as a thoroughly entertaining 
talking picture. It is the best class B production I have 
seen since Smart Blonde, and that also happened to have 
been directed by McDonald. The intelligence this young 
director brings to bear on his task is reflected in the excel- 
lent, understanding performances given him by Jean Muir 
(wife), Betty Roberts (secretary), and Warren Hull 
(employer). There is a sensitive quality in Jean’s work 
which few of our screen girls can match, and underlying 
it is an active brain which develops all the possibilities of 
the parts she plays. Betty Roberts, too, always is depend- 
able, her pleasing personality and acting ability making 
each of her performances outstanding. 


rr ARREN HULL is one of the most agreeable young 
men on the screen. As the steel riveter in the opening se- 
quence he reveals talent as a light comedian, and later as 
the head of a building company he meets fully all the 
emotional demands as a man who loves his wife even 
when he yields to the allurements of his attractive and 
designing secretary. Clara Blandick, Joseph Crehan, Ad- 
dison Richards, Harry Davenport, and Minerva Urecal 
also give excellent performances. 

But it is the director who develops all the values of 
the story material. There is not another director in the 
business who could have improved upon the manner in 
which the story is told. And all that McDonald brings 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


to his task is ordinary screen sense. He had an intimate 
story to tell and he tells it in an intimate way. The char- 
acters speak to one another, not to the audience, the pic- 
ture being a striking example of the value of this common 
sense direction of dialogue. McDonald carries his story 
forward with an easy flow which gives his old material a 
refreshing feeling of newness. Quietly and without ap- 
parent effort to achieve results, he develops emotional 
values in simple scenes, an outstanding example being his 
handling of a scene in which Jean Muir, Hull and Harry 
Davenport participate. It creates the impression in our 
minds that we are permitted to be in a room and to over- 
hear an intimate family conversation obviously not in- 
tended for our ears. Her Husband’s Secretary is not a 
big picture, but there is a big lesson in it for directors 
willing to learn how dialogue should be presented. You 
can put Frank McDonald down as a director worth 
watching. He is destined to do big things. 

Might Have Been Great 

MICHAEL STROGOFF, a Pandro S. Berman production. Directed 
by George Nicholls, Jr.; associate producer, Joseph Ermolieff; mo- 
tion picture rights assigned by Society Jules Verne; screen play by 
Mortimer Offner, Anthony Veiller and Anne Morrison Chapin; mu- 
sical director, Nathaniel Shilkret; photographed by Joseph H. 
August, A.S.C.; special effects by Vernon Walker, A.S.C.; art di- 
rector, Van Nest Polglase; associate, Perry Ferguson; orchestral ar- 
rangements by Maurice de Packh; costumes by Walter Plunkett; set 
dressing by Darrell Silvera; recorded by George D. Ellis; edited by 
Frederic Knudtson. Cast: Anton Walbrook, Elizabeth Allan, Akim 
Tamiroff, Margot Grahame, Fay Bainter, Eric Blore, Edward Brophy, 
Paul Guilfoyle, William Stack, Paul Harvey, Michael Visaroff. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

N their screen play, Mortimer Offner, Anthony Veil- 
,ler and Anne Morrison Chapin have made one notable 
contribution which gives this version of Michael Strog- 
off far more cohesion than the earlier silent film of years 
ago. Pure coincidence governed the saving of Strogoff’s 
sight in the original ; in this one, a woman’s love and hu- 
man greed form a logical basis for this vital part of the 
plot-continuity. 

The casting is one department I can praise fervently 
and with abandon. Anton Walbrook ’s interpretation of 
Michael Strogoff is faultless. His understanding is con- 
summate and his eyes interpret for us his innermost emo- 
tions. Mr. Walbrook is destined for screenland’s heights. 
As the girl, Elizabeth Allan immediately captures the 
heart of every man and the sympathetic admiration of 
the women. She too gives us the perfect filmic portrayal 
— the eyes have it. 

/ HAVE seen Akim Tamiroff in several bits. And each 
time his complete sincerity has won an instantaneous re- 
sponse from his audience. In Michael Strogoff he is given 
full opportunity to display his wares. I venture to pre- 
dict his schedule from now on will be overflowing. Fay 
Bainter, a new personality, is genuine, pleasing the pre- 
viewers to the point of giving her a whole-hearted burst 
of applause. 

Although Eric Blore and Edward Brophy command 
my honest admiration as exceptionally fine comedians, 
their roles in Michael Strogoff were so definitely pasted 


on, and so distinctly an irritating filmic ulcer, I resented 
their every appearance. No fault of these splendid troup- 
ers; just another case of Big Brains at work in the office. 
With vigorous bits by Paul Guilfoyle, Paul Harvey, Wil- 
liam Stack and Michael Visaroff, and with singularly 
fine mounting, Michael Strogoff will doubtless make 
money. It is that most pathetic of all Hollywood achieve- 
ments — an unusual picture that might have been great. 

Just Another Murder 

MURDER GOES TO COLLEGE, Paramount production and re- 
lease. Directed by Charles Riesner; based on novel by Kurt Steel; 
screen play by Brian Marlow, Robert Wyler and Eddie Welch; 
sound by Philip Wisdom and John Cope; film editor, Edward Dmy- 
tryk; musical direction by Boris Morros; art direction by Hans 
Dreier and Earl Hedrick; interior decorations by A. E. Freudeman; 
photographed by Henry Sharp. Cast: Roscoe Karns, Marsha Hunt, 
Lynne Overman, Larry Crabbe, Astrid Allwyn, Harvey Stephens, 
Purnell Pratt, Barlow Borland, Earle Foxe, Anthony Nace, Terry Ray, 
Nick Lukats, Jack Chapin, Charles Wilson. Running time, 70 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

F any city had just one detective half as clever as our 
super-film-sleuths, all our crimes would be solved long 
before they are committed. But despite the fact that 
Lynne Overman is much more clever than all of the 
regular city force put together, he cannot get a real job 
as a detective and spends half his time dodging city 
dicks who apparently hope to pick up stray crumbs of his 
genius. What time he has left, he spends unraveling the 
murder that stumps our infant-brained regulars. Oh yes, 
at the end, of course, the trapped villain grabs up the 
murder-gun and finds to his amazement that it is empty! 
With such startling original material, Charles Riesner 
has succeeded surprisingly in turning out a genuinely 
clever film. Murder Goes to College is a tribute to his 
direction, to the excellent characterizations, and to the 
witty scripting of Brian Marlow, Robert Wyler and 
Eddie Welch. When impossible material is made really 
entertaining, that’s something to brag about. 

FlRST honors go to Lynne Overman. His work is 
sure-fire, giving him a wide-open door to feature rating. 
Larry Crabbe, whose magnificent frame won for him his 
start, proves himself to be as fine an actor as he is a 
swimmer, giving us as smooth a portrayal as any veteran 
luminary. I have always liked Larry’s personality. It is 
a pleasure to discover that he will maintain his filmic 
rating on something more than big muscles. 

Roscoe Karns is his usual ebullient self. It seems a 
shame that so versatile an actor apparently is doomed on 
the screen to habitual alcoholism. Marsha Hunt’s inter- 
pretation of the gal who knows all the answers is flaw- 
less. And the brief, clear-cut bits by Harvey Stephens, 
Astrid Allwyn, Purnell Pratt and the rest of the cast, are 
largely responsible for the frothy strength of movement 
upon which Murder Goes to College depends for its in- 
terest. Not quite enough meat for a first film, it will 
support the other half; but for the almost-to-be-expected 
errors of dialogued explanation of the murder (instead of 
flash-back) and of dangerous information screamed across 
a public table — this B is distinctly better than most of 
its class. 


Page Fourteen 


February 27, 1937 


Mr. Brown Goes to Town 

WHEN'S YOUR BIRTHDAY?, Radio release of David L. Loew 
production. Robert Harris, associate producer; directed by Harry 
Beaumont; screen play by Harry Clork from a play by Fred Ballard; 
adaptation by Harvey Gates, Malcolmn Stuart Boylan and Samuel 
M. Pilce; musical score by Samuel Wineland; photographed by 
George Robinson; art direction by John Ducasses Schulze; RCA 
High Fidelity sound recorded by Ralph Shugart; edited by Jack 
Ogilvie; assistant director, Sandy Roth. Cast: Joe E. Brown, Mar- 
ian Marsh, Fred Keating, Edgar Kennedy, Maude Eburne, Suzanne 
Kaaren, Margaret Hamilton, Minor Watson, Frank Jenks, Don Row- 
an, Granville Bates, Charles Judels, Jimmy O'Gatty and Bull Mon- 
tana. Running time, 70 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

LWAYS a synonym for fun, Joe E. Brown hits the 
hilarity note right from the start in this first of the 
bigger and much better series he is beginning for R.K.O. 
As a matter of fact, if When's Your Birthday? is a genu- 
ine forecast, the already legion of Brown fans will grow 
like Townsend membership in the old folks home. You 
will heartily enjoy the continuous light-tempoed nonsense 
Joe dishes out, thanks to Harry Clork’s clever writing 
and Harry Beaumont’s smoothly competent direction. 
Here’s a sample: Immersed in his passion for astrology, 
Joe dreamily says to Edgar Kennedy, his prospective fath- 
er-in-law, “I’m a Bull, you’re a Goat, your daughter 
(Suzanne Kaaren) is a Scorpion and your wife is a 
Crab.” Delicate inferential analysis is given the audience 
when Margaret Hamilton, the family maid, comes back 
with: “Boy, that’s pickin’ ’em!” 

Rating Mr. Brown as tops in entertainment (who in 
the world but Joe could sit on the street curb with a little 
dog, howl at the moon in duet and do a more convincing 
job of it than the pup?), Marian Marsh, on the other 
hand, is first in emotional appeal as the completely sweet 
girl with whom Joe unrealizingly is in love. As the other 
woman, Suzanne Kaaren does a suave act of being a 
nuisance. Brisk supplementary humor is contributed by 
Fred Keating, Minor Watson and Maude Eburne. But 
naturally, I fell heavily for Corky, just as you will ; he is 
one of the cutest of our screen pups. 

T 

M HIS seems a good time to bring up a question that al- 
ways strikes me whenever the writing staff of a film looks 
like an army muster. Why does it take so many writers 
to turn out one story? The obvious inference is that no 
one of them is capable of doing a competent job by him- 
self. In When's Your Birthday? there is no scene or gag 
that has not been as cleverly executed before by a solitary 
writer in some other story. Look at this: Fred Ballard 
wrote the original. Harry Clork then takes it and turns 
out a nifty screen job. No sooner is his pen dry than in 
swarm Harvey Gates, Malcolm Stuart Boylan and 
Samuel H. Pike who proceed to give vent to their ideas 
of what continuity is made of. For a rare change, in 
When's Your Birthday? the end seems to justify the 
method. Unfortunately, the opposite is usually true. 

At any odds, When's Your Birthday? is in sharp con- 
trast to the long series of half-baked humors Joe has 
been forced to carry through the sheer force of his per- 
sonal ability. With this sudden cooperation from the 
other departments, he definitely shows us the Spectator 
is right in its contention that a picture is good in propor- 


tion to the unity with which its components are blended. 
Except for Joe’s dream in Technicolor — and even if it 
was funny and logical — we have a fine blend of filmic in- 
gredients: a clever story, a capable cast, a competent di- 
rector, a scintillating star, all mixed with a natural riot- 
ous rhythm — that’s When’s Your Birthday? 

New York Spectacle 

By Frederick Stone 

New York, February 22, 1937. 

O N the off chance that someone may have noticed the 
absence of this department from the past several is- 
sues, I will take it upon myself to explain. I spent the 
month of January in Los Angeles, and therefore could 
not write anything. Let no one suppose that this was due 
to the fact that I could not write under the above be- 
cause I was the length of a continent away from my sub- 
ject; this would not have deterred me. The fact is that 
I could wrote nothing while in California for the purely 
mechanical reason that my fingers were frozen during 
the entire period of my stay. 

Now that I have been back in New York for two 
weeks the fingers have thawed out sufficiently to permit 
of fairly accurate, if still somewhat benumbed, picking 
out of the typewriter keys with two of them. In fact, my 
doctor expects that under favorable circumstances I shall 
gradually be able to use the remaining fingers again, at 
least for pointing and for holding forks. He doubts 
whether they will all stand the shock of typing, some be- 
ing more affected than others, unless I go to the trouble 
and expense of having a special keyboard made; keys 
made of jello floating on a cushion of air would be fine, 
he says, if this could be arranged. 

Y ET this was not all that prevented me from resuming 
my writing under this heading. As soon as I had arrived 
in New York I fell ill with a most shattering form of 
tonsilitis known as quinsy, which was evidently the result 
of my having come rapidly from the healthy California 
climate, where no bacteria can exist during the winter 
months owing to the extreme cold, to New York, where 
they exist at all times. It appears that my blood became 
very thick and heavy while I was on the coast and was 
still in this condition upon my arrival in New York, so 
that when I inhaled a couple of germs which would or- 
dinarily have done me no harm, they immediately multi- 
plied in great unhampered delight, for the blood was 
moving about in my veins so slowly and sluggishly that 
by the time it had marshaled up its anti-bodies in defence 
I was too far gone to be saved. The irony is that the 
cure for quinsy is ice in the mouth, and I had just been 
congratulating myself upon getting away from California. 

A Broadway season which had taken on the appearance 
of a community interment when I left town was, when I 
returned a brief six weeks later, leaping along with some 
shows selling three months in advance, and brokers offer- 
ing seats for the same night to any of the five big hits at 
eight dollars apiece, if at all. You Can't Take It With 
You, The Women, Richard II, Wingless Victory and 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


Tonight at 8:30 have pulled the season’s other foot out 
of the grave with such a start that the assembled mourn- 
ers and pallbearers were left empty-handed and blinking. 

AfTER seeing several sections of Noel Coward’s pres- 
entation and also Claire Brokaw’s The Women, I began 
to wonder whether someone had quietly altered the old- 
fashioned marriage vows to read: “And I solemnly re- 
solve te be unfaithful to this woman (or man) at every 
opportunity and upon every possible occasion, with or 
without her (his) knowledge, until death us do rejoin.” 
The number of infidelities revealed in these plays can be 
arrived at by taking the total number of characters ap- 
pearing in them and multiplying this figure by twenty- 
seven. This, of course, refers only to the infidelities 
which take place more or less during the action of the 
plays, and does not take into account what has transgress- 
ed before. It was with the greatest relief that I saw a 
performance of You Cant Take It With You, and real- 
ized that a few of the homely virtues are still with us. 
Of course, the Kaufmann-Hart play is not about the 
smut set, which may explain everything. 

The Eternal Road, Max Reinhart’s spectacle which 
opened a year later than scheduled, demonstrates that 
rave notices in all the press are sometimes not enough to 
insure commercial success. The house was far from filled 
the night I attended. The presentation is a delight to the 
eye but, dealing all evening in a relentless monotone with 
the legendary and actual sufferings of the Jewish Race, it 
becomes pretty much of a weary experience to the mind. 
No audience can spend a whole evening watching a char- 
acter or a group of characters take it constantly on the 
chin, without growing a bit tired of all this passivity. 

F 

I ROM the historical point of view, the Jews have done 
a lot more in the world than search dejectedly through 
the ages for the promised land ; and from the dramatic 
point of view, no matter how imposing and eye-filling the 
background to the action may be, if there is to be any 
play at all the downtrodden hero must sooner or later 
arise. Much as I admire Max Reinhart, Franz Werfel 
and Kurt Weill, I am afraid that The Eternal Road is 
an infernal bore. 

British-Gaumont’s latest starring vehicle for Jessie 
Matthews, Head Over Heels in Love, is generally one 
of the dullest films I have seen in many months, but I 
must give it great credit for having the intellectual inde- 
pendence and audacity to avoid a type of howling non- 
sense to which we have grown accustomed in the Holly- 
wood musicals. As the film opens Jessie makes the ac- 
quaintance of a young man at a meat market, and he in- 
vites her to have lunch with him at his apartment. Once 
there he asks her what she does for a living, and she tells 
him that she sings. “Sing something, then,” says he. But 
there is no musical instrument in the apartment, not even 
a piano, so Jessie, in order to oblige, sings a pretty song 
for him without accompaniment of any kind. 

T 

i HIS is a tradition-shattering departure from the illogic- 
ality of the Hollywood treatment of similar passages, for 
as we all know if a singer and his beloved in a Holly- 


wood musical film were to find themselves stranded in 
full Sahara and he were to pass the time with a song or 
two, he would start to sing without music, and lo! Di- 
vine Providence would rare back and pass a miracle, and 
in a trice he would be accompanied by a full thundering 
symphony orchestra — to the astonishment not of him or 
of his beloved, but only of those few members of the audi- 
ence who can’t figure the damned thing out. 

New York has sent a challenge ringing across the con- 
tinent to Hollywood in the form of a magnificent benefit 
which was given at Radio City Music Hall the other 
night for the relief of the flood sufferers. Every enter- 
tainment name of any consequence available was on a pro- 
gram which began at midnight and lasted before a packed 
house until half-past four in the morning. Receipts were 
in excess of sixty-five thousand dollars, which is a boon 
to the Red Cross; and as the tremendous audience strug- 
gled out of the theatre in the early morning, each mem- 
ber knew that he had witnessed a great act of charity on 
the part of artists and audience alike, as well as one of 
the most magnificent entertainments ever presented any- 
where. Great credit is due Leonard Sillman for having 
conceived the idea and seen it through. 


Robert Florey 

Directed 

OUTCAST 


The camera is a potent instrument in a picture directed 
by Robert Florey. It brings to the screen much of the riel 
pictorial quality which the better European directors strive 
for and are so successful in attaining. In Outcast Florey 
tells his story with graphic progression which does not 
allow our attention to wander for a moment. It blends 
the performances into it until we have no feeling we are 
looking at players in acting parts. . . . All this tragic 
drama is developed powerfully by Florey’s effective direc- 
tion. When he first came to this country from Europe, 
the first thing he did here prompted me to predict in these 
pages that his career as a director would be a brilliant one, 
but Florey never seems to have been given the chance I 
would have given him if I were a producer. He has direct- 
ed only the smaller pictures to which adherence to shoot- 
ing schedules is deemed to be of more importance than the 
full development of their entertainment possibilities. Every- 
thing he has brought to the screen reveals a genius capable 
of great accomplishments, but the film business is such a 
weird one his genius is not recognized by those who could 
profit by it . — Welfocd Beaton, HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR. 



Page Sixteen 


February 27, 1937 




20 

CENTS 


dtl)lhjWDDd 

SPECTATOR 

Eleventh Year Edited by WELFORD BEATON 

Volume 1 1 MARCH 27, 1937 No. 26 


REALITY AND ILLUSION 


The Parts They Play in the 
Composition of a Motion 
Picture 


The Third of a Series of Special Articles by the Editor 
Dealing with the Fundamentals of Screen Art 

.... REVIEWED .... 

SEVENTH HEAVEN * QUALITY STREET * WAIKIKI WEDDING 
HER HUSBAND LIES * SWING HIGH, SWING LOW * PERSONAL PROPERTY 
REFLECTION * GIRL OVERBOARD * SONG OF THE CITY 
WHEN LOVE IS YOUNG * GIRL LOVES BOY * MIDNIGHT TAXI 
THAT MAN'S HERE AGAIN * JIM HANVEY — DETECTIVE 

CALIFORNIA STRAIGHT AHEAD * WE HAVE OUR MOMENTS 


THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


March 27, 1937 



From the 

Editor’s Easy 


Chair 


(This is the third in a series of special articles by the 
Editor dealing with the fundamentals of screen art.) 

O NE objective all fine arts have in common is the sug- 
gestion of reality. But it is the mission of none to 
recreate nature. The mission of Art is to interpret nature; 
the mission of each artist to interpret it in terms of the 
medium in which he works. 

When I stood one day before the statue of Aphrodite 
in the museum in Naples, I marveled at the fidelity 
with which the sculptor had chiselled marble away until 
a perfect human form was left; but, working in such a 
cold and rigid medium, it was beyond the skill of the 
artist to create in me the illusion that I was looking at a 
living woman. My response to the effort of the sculptor 
was intellectual appreciation of his skill. It thus was the 
artist, not the creation, that I admired, even though it 
was the degree of perfection the creation achieved that 
was the measure of my admiration for the creator. 

When I visited the Louvre in Paris, I would have been 
embarrassed and pained if my absorption in the Venus 
de Milo had given me the illusion that I was looking at 
a real woman who had no arms and almost no clothes. 

My favorite landscape hangs in the National Gallery, 
London. It is Constable’s Hay Wain. It is not even the 
artist’s best, but it appeals to me. I have sat in front of it 
for a total of hours. In the center foreground is a mud 
puddle. If the artist’s skill had been great enough to give 
me the illusion that I was looking at a real mud puddle, 
I would not have spent five minutes in front of the pic- 
ture, for I never yet have seen a mud puddle I cared to 

contemplate for even a fraction of that time. 

* * 

P 

I ROB ABLY the most arresting portrait I have seen is 
Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, which hangs in the Hunt- 
ington Library. It is a work of art the whole world 
praises, yet if the boy stepped from the frame and attended 
a costume ball, he would attract no particular attention 
if there were other costumes that shared the period of his. 

The aural arts — symphonic music, the opera, and the 
drama — are either subjectively or objectively visual. The 
layman who lacks knowledge of the technique of sym- 
phonic composition can derive full enjoyment from an 
orchestra’s playing of a symphony only by the exercise 
of his picturing sense to see the story the music tells. 
Opera and the drama become enjoyable only when the 
visual and aural senses function in sympathy with what 
is offered them. Sculpture and painting are wholly visu- 


al, yet they share with the other arts the obligation to 
suggest movement, life, energy; to make us see them as 
their creators saw them, to grasp the stories their crea- 
tors strove to have them tell. 

All arts are story-telling mediums. Art was born when 
prehistoric man scratched symbols on the faces of cliffs, 
and antiquarians interpret for us the stories the primi- 
tive artist recorded in his drawings; and down through 
the ages, through the period of Greek pantomime, past 
the birth of printing, until today, authors, dramatists, 
sculptors, painters, composers, poets have been telling the 
world stories, each in the language of his individual art. 

R 

LfUT it was beyond the power of any of them to create 
a perfect illusion of reality, an illusion so perfect we saw 
only the art object apart from the artist, saw Aphrodite 
as a woman and Blue Boy as a boy. All the arts strove 
to entertain us, but none succeeded in providing univer- 
sal entertainment, in developing a language all could 
understand. Each had its audience composed of those 
who either instinctively or by training could follow the 
stories they told ; but all lacked the simplicity of expres- 
sion which dismissed the intellect as a factor in their 
understanding and appreciation. All of them, in their 
various degrees, were mental exercises, and not until 
mentalities attained a common level could all of them 
appeal equally to all mentalities. 

Common to all the arts was their difficulty in creating 
a perfect illusion of reality. Arts derive their strength 
from their limitations, from being compelled to stay 
within limits arbitrarily set by their mechanics. The 
painter could suggest movement in the leaves on a tree 
bending in a storm, but it was beyond the power of his 
brush to make the suggestion so strong the viewer of the 
painting could imagine the leaves were moving. Thus it 
was that the “movement” we credited a painting with 
possessing was provided by our imaginations accepting 
sympathetically the suggestion expressed in the language 
of the painter’s technique. 

OvER a century ago the seeds of a new art were germ- 
inating in the restless brains of blazers of odd and un- 
mapped trails. Men were endeavoring to create an illu- 
sion of motion by wedding persistence of vision and suc- 
cessively projected still pictures. Munsterberg tells us of 
Faraday, who in 1831 wrote on “a peculiar class of opti- 
cal deceptions.” In 1832 in both Germany and France 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, 
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Hollywood Spectator 


Page Three 



devices were designed “by which pictures of objects in 
various phases of movement gave the impression of con- 
tinued motion.” The United States enters the prenatal 
story of the motion picture in 1872, when Muybridge, 
a Californian, photographed a trotting horse with twenty- 
four cameras, the shutters of which were opened succes- 
sively by the horse himself, his feet as he moved forward 
breaking strings stretched across the track. 

And that is all we did to make the motion picture 
possible until Eastman removed the difficulty blocking 
the progress of the various European experiments. To 
those experiments we owe credit for the motion picture 
of today, for the principles then established are those 
which govern the showing of pictures now. All the Eu- 
ropean pioneers needed to make the operation of their 
devices practical, was some substitute for the glass plates 
they were forced to use in their photographic process 
and which made difficult the projection of their images 
with sufficient speed to create the impression of continu- 
ous motion. Eastman’s film solved that problem and was 
America’s only important contribution to a machine which 
founded an art. 

All the early progress of the art also was made in 
Europe. The progress continued until the World War 
checked it, up to which time American product suffered 
in comparison with what came to us from abroad. The 
war shifted the chief activity to this country where the 
business of making motion pictures became great, but the 
art languished, due to the failure of those who controlled 
it to realize its existence, a display of lack of intelli- 
gence which still persists. It was then, and still is, re- 
garded strictly as a business. 

It was the motion picture camera which gave the 
world its most graphic art, the one which possessed the 
power all others lacked, the power to create a perfect 
illusion of reality. It established complete unity of its 
elements. Its people were of the same substance as its 
settings, its drama enacted by photographs in photo- 
graphed surroundings. It was beyond its power to intro- 
duce an element to disturb our complete acceptance of 
it as real. It is the only art which can show us yester- 
day’s civilization (King of Kings) and tomorrow’s 
(Things to Come), and make both live before our eyes — 
which can make us look into the living eyes of Pontius 
Pilate and those of a despot not yet born — which can do 
such things and make us believe them. 

DrOP into a friend’s house some evening and find 
there a few other people you like. Sit in front of the 
fire and discuss the inconsequential happenings in the 
lives of those about you — the reason for Susie’s change 
of dressmakers, the funny experience Jack had one even- 
ing at the Rutherfords, the straight flush Bob drew 
against four treys and a full, the letter from Aunt Agatha 
who is doing Europe, the best place to buy shoes, the 
changes you are going to make in your garden in the 
spring, why Mabel shifted all the furniture in the living 
room, the latest book Edith has read — an evening like 
thousands you have had and found enjoyable. 


And why do you find such evenings enjoyable? Because 
you like your companions. Because the gathering is inti- 
mate, human, real. Because it is relaxation which makes 
no tiring demands on your mentality. Because it is pleas- 
ant entertainment. Because the mood of the gathering is 
agreeable. 

M 

If I OOD comparable with that of the gathering in your 
friend’s house can be developed in the mind of an audi- 
ence by what is presented on the screen. We start 
with a mood receptive to the advances of the motion pic- 
ture; we are there for the sole purpose of enjoying our- 
selves, and we respond readily to the first bid for our 
interest in what we see, are willing to accept the char- 
acters as people we know and extend our liking to those 
who reach for it. The camera takes us into intimate con- 
tact with the story people ; we live among them and move 
along with them to the story’s end. We become so inti- 
mate with all of them, we are entertained even when 
Arthur tells who makes his shirts. 

Only by the completeness of the illusion of reality 
created by the camera can we completely share the mood 
of what is presented on the screen. Unless we feel what 
we are looking at is real, the film offering cannot enter- 
tain us. We cannot be entertained by shadows without 
substance, by photographs moving on a two-dimensional 
plane. When our mood is receptive to what is offered 
us, we see the photographs as real people moving in a 
world to which we ascribe height, breadth and depth, 
the same three-dimensional world in which we ourselves 
move. In other words, the art creation takes us out of 
the outer world of our material interests and places us 
in its own inner world. It does not try to entertain us; 
it takes us past the barrier between fact and fancy and 
allows us to entertain ourselves. 


T)EAR in mind always that we are discussing motion 
iJ pictures, not talkies; screen art, not photographed 
stage technique. I am not one of those who accept the 
Hollywood view that the story is the element of chief 
importance and that its telling, no matter how — whether 
in dialogue or with pictures — is the thing that counts. 
The establishment and preservation of mood is the para- 
mount interest. It is the mood of the gathering in our 
friend’s house that makes us interested in the reason why 
Mabel rearranged the furnishing of her living room, 
in itself a trival thing, but of consequence because it con- 
cerns one we like. It is the mood which gives pictures 
their box-office value. 

When the screen was silent, it lacked the mechanical 
means to disturb the illusion of reality by embracing 
reality as an integral element. It kept the police siren 
in its place as an illusive element in a world of illusion. 
If our imaginations were capable of accepting a photo- 
graph of it as a real siren, a photograph of a police offi- 
cer as a real person whose hand was operating it, then 
surely our imaginations were capable of preserving the 
unity of the scene, of keeping intact the illusion of reali- 
ty, by making our ears hear the siren’s sound. If, even 
in a talkie, we do not accept the photograph as an offi- 
cer, the scene means nothing to us, has no power to enter- 


Page Four 


March 27, 1937 


tain us. Making the policeman a fancy and the siren’s 
blast a fact, is a mixture of warring elements, an ana- 
chronism which derides screen art. 


We, so to speak, are as rigid as he is as he scans the val- 
ley beneath him ; and our hearts leap with his as he spies 
a path leading down. 


B 


JJT Hollywood laughs when you mention screen art. 
To it, making screen entertainment is strictly a business, 
as I have said. The business, however, is not being 
conducted by capable businessmen. The capable business- 
man shapes his product to conform to the demand of the 
market; his sole concern is to offer his customers what 
they will buy most readily, not to dictate to them what 
they shall buy. Hollywood does all the things the capable 
businessman carefully avoids doing; but it does them un- 
consciously. Never having understood why the public 
bought screen entertainment in the first place, being una- 
ware of the element which made it marketable, it now, 
without knowing it, is trying to make over the market to 
conform to its product instead of studying the market to 
the end that it may give it what it will buy most readily. 

Obviously the impression of movement the screen con- 
veys to its audience is the chief factor in its commercial 
success. That the impression is due to the rapid projec- 
tion of a series of pictures, in which there is no movement, 
is of no concern to the audience; it is none the less move- 
ment to the eye, even though it is the product of per- 
sistence of vision making an impression appear as an actu- 
ality. Our artist who painted the tree leaning before the 
wind, can inspire imagination to ascribe movement to the 
leaves, but only the screen can show us the leaves actually 
trembling, can create in us the illusion that the photo- 
graphed leaves have movement. 


w, 


0 


UR emotions keep the filmic motion intact. Our brain 
tells us the hunter is in no danger, that he is an actor 
pretending to be a hunter, that there is a camera crew 
close to him, that soon he will be in a comfortable motor 
on his way home; that his sweetheart is not his sweet- 
heart, is in no danger, probably is at home, entertaining 
friends at tea. But so completely has the illusion of re- 
ality been created, so sympathetically have our emotions 
responded to its urge, we give no heed to the realities 
our cold brain tries to force upon our attention; we ig- 
nore its efforts to lead us from the inner world of the 
screen creation into the outer world of our daily, com- 
monplace, routine actualities. 

It will be seen, then, that if a motion picture does not 
create an illusion of reality, it creates nothing; if it does 
not weave its elements into a continuous flow of filmic 
motion to keep our emotional reaction unchecked — in 
short, if it is not screen art — it cannot have entertain- 
ment value to assure its success at the box-office. And, 
as pointed out in a previous Spectator, these discussions 
are based on commercial considerations, on picture-mak- 
ing as a business, and screen art becomes a factor in them 
because, as the business is one of manufacturing and mar- 
keting art creations, it should follow that the degree of 
artistic perfection the creations attain must be reflected 
in the financial return they earn. 


w. 


ITH that as the starting point in their analysis of 
their product, one would think producers of screen enter- 
tainment would grasp the commercial wisdom of pro- 
viding their market with as much movement as possible. 
In a screen offering there are two kinds of movement, 
physical and filmic, or objective and subjective. Of the 
two, filmic motion is the more important, if we differ- 
entiate them, as in reality physical motion is a part of 
filmic motion, the motion which makes the story interest 
continuous, which provides the maximum of entertain- 
ment in a given length of film. It is its entertainment 
content which determines the market value of a screen 
creation, consequently the first concern of the makers 
of pictures should be keeping intact the element upon 
which their commercial success depends. 

Even though it embraces it, filmic motion is not depen- 
dent for its integrity upon physical motion. A motion 
picture is a symphony of movement, our emotions the 
strings upon which it is played. Our emotions provide the 
continuity. They follow the physical action of a lost hunt- 
er in seeking desperately to reach a height from which he 
hopes to get his bearings, but when he attains the height, 
stands still and gazes anxiously into the distance, only 
his eyes alive, our emotions do not pause as his physical 
action ceases. Our anxiety for his safety increases, for 
the crucial point has been reached ; we know each hour 
is precious, that delay means peril to him and his sweet- 
heart whom he must reach before disaster overtakes her. 


E have seen that the degree of merit a motion pic- 
ture attains is determined by the degree in which the 
illusion of reality is developed and sustained. Obviously, 
the most disturbing factor in the integrity of an illusion 
must be the intrusion of reality. Another is the disturb- 
ance of the pictorial symphony’s harmony by one elem- 
ent’s bid for attention on its own account and at the ex- 
pense of the rhythmic flow of the filmic motion. Let us 
first consider the one we place second. 

To be complete, our interest in a screen offering must 
be continuous. If into a scene which has been a legiti- 
mate element in the forward flow of filmic motion, comes 
a woman wearing a hat so striking it attracts attention 
to itself apart from the remainder of the composition, 
we have an abrupt check to the filmic motion and a let- 
down in audience interest by the intrusion of alien con- 
siderations. Where, in heaven’s name, did she get such 
a hat ? Does she imagine she looks well in it ? Or — 
what a stunning hat! I wonder who designed it. I will 
get one like it. Multiply the hat by hair-dresses, gowns, 
sets, all sufficiently striking to attract attention to them- 
selves, and you find many cases of pictures being de- 
prived of their maximum entertainment possibilities by 
a lack of understanding of their true inwardness on the 
part of those who make them. 

T HE gravest intrusion is that of the reality of audible 
dialogue and mechanically reproduced sounds in this art 
of the illusion of reality. As we consider it, however, 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


we must remember we are regarding the art from the 
standpoint of the business interest of those who control 
it. Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge 
of the fundamentals of the art, is aware audible dia- 
logue is a rank anachronism, a poison which would kill 
any art which lacks the great inherent strength screen 
art possesses. But a little dose of it can act as a stimulant 
to the forward progress of a screen story; the public will 
accept it, and is it good business expensively to strive for 
perfection when the public will be content with some- 
thing less? When it is put in that way, we must accord 
dialogue a rightful place in screen entertainment even 
though we do not recognize it as a legitimate element 
of screen art. 

But the talkie is not moderate in its use of dialogue, 
and equally immoderate is it with mechanically created 
sounds. Instead of using its vocal powers merely to ex- 
pedite the progress of a story by enabling it to cut corn- 
ers, and recognizing the right of the art to play the most 
important part in the story telling, the talkie goes to the 
extreme length of murdering the art and presenting its 
remains for our entertainment. 

Previously we have established the fact that audible 
dialogue harms motion pictures by making their appeal 
intellectual instead of emotional, as is should be. Here 
we find it does further harm by virtue of its being an in- 
trusion of reality in an art whose strength as entertain- 
ment is derived solely from its status as an art of the 
illusion of reality. 

{In the next Spectator we will discuss the screen as 
a business.) 

* * * * 

J O those who wail about the burden of their income 
tax I recommend the philosophy of Una Merkel. 
“My!” she exclaimed as I encountered her immediately 
after she had squared her debt to Uncle Sam, “I never 
imagined a few years ago that I’d have the thrill of pay- 
ing so much income tax.” The thought behind her words 
constitutes a sermon in contentment. 

* * * 


A NEWSREEL I saw recently contained some shots 
Cm of a mother Boston terrier and her litter of puppies, 
all suffering from mumps. When the mother was shown 
in close-up, her eyes half-closed, her whole attitude one 
of resigned dejection, a long drawnout, “Oh-o-o!” went 
up from the entire audience. At two more previews I 
caught the same scene and both times the audience re- 
action was the same exhibition of warm sympathy for the 
suffering little mother, audible reaction I never have 
known a human being to inspire. And still picture pro- 
ducers cannot get it into their thick skulls that a series of 
real dog pictures would have great box-office value. 


* * * 

MOT that I necessarily want to see another war picture, 
»w. but if a producer is thinking of making another be- 
fore they finally go out of fashion, I would recommend 
for his background material, I Saw Them Die , an extra- 
ordinary graphic record of an American young woman’s 
experiences as nurse behind the World War lines. The 
author is Shirley Millard, and her diary was edited by 


THE NEXT SPECTATOR 
WILL BE THE 


ELEVENTH 

BIRTHDAY 

NUMBER- 


Phone: 


Will all those who have expressed 
their desire to take advertising 
space in this Special Issue, do us 
the favor of getting in touch with 
us as soon as possible? We will 
appreciate it. 

GLadstone 5-2-I-3 


Adele Comandini, the gifted author of the Three Smart 
Girls screen story; publisher, Harcourt, Brace & Co. If 
you wish a livid bit of the war served up to you again, 
or if you appreciate beautiful writing for its own sake, I 
think you will enjoy this little literary meal which you 

can consume easily at one sitting. 

* * * 

£ VER since Metro purchased The Shining Hour, in 
• which Jane Cowl appeared at El Capitan Theatre, 
I have been waiting to see it on the screen. In order to 
be of the utmost service to Metro I herewith cast the 
picture for it: Joan Crawford in the Cowl role, Fran- 
chot Tone as the husband, Madge Evans as the wife. 
My renewed interest in the play was prompted by my 
having seen Madge in a recent picture. The wife in Shin- 
ing Hour would give her something that long has been 
denied her — an opportunity to play a part she can get 
her teeth into, one that will enable her to demonstrate 
her ability. Few girls on the screen can match the charm 
of her personality, her inherent sweetness, but she is not 
cast in parts which permit her to exercise her talents as 
an actress. 

* * * 


r HE desirablity of abolishing double bills and restoring 
the showing of pictures to a sound business basis is 
agitating exhibitors. Like all evils, this one should be 
attacked at its source. When producers cut out three- 
quarters of the audible dialogue their pictures now con- 
tain, and restore the camera to its rightful place as their 
medium of expression, they will be giving as much story 
value in one production as audiences now are getting in 
two. Talkie technique requires much more footage than 
it takes to tell a given story in cinematic technique. 


Page Six 


March 27, 1937 


Some Late ^Previews 

Great Job, Done Greatly 

SEVENTH HEAVEN, 20th Century-Fox. Associate producer, Ray- 
mond Griffith; director, Henry King; play, Austin Strong; screen 
play, Melville Baker; photographer, Merritt Gerstad; music and 
lyrics, Lew Pollack and Sidney D. Mitchell; musical direction, Louis 
Silvers; film editor, Barbara MacLean; assistant director, Robert 
Webb. Cast: Simone Simon, James Stewart, Jean Hersholt, Greg- 
ory Ratoff, Gale Sondergaard, J. Edward Bromberg, John Qualen, 
Victor Kilian, Thomas Beck, Sig Rumann, Mady Christians, Rollo 
Lloyd, Rafaela Ottiano, George Renavent, Edward Keane, John 
Hamilton, Paul Porcasi, Will Stanton, Irving Bacon, Leonid Snogoff, 
Adrienne D'Ambricourt. Running time, 92 minutes. 

S EVENTH HEAVEN , with all its emotional power, 
all the greatness of its simplicity and its elemental tug 
at our heart-strings, is born again on the screen. It was 
an audacious challenge the talkies made to match their 
technique with that of pre-talkie days in the treatment 
of a story the silent screen made into a picture that will 
live long in the memory of those who saw it. As a talkie 
it will rank high among its kind. The silent version ran 
twenty-two weeks at the Carthay Circle, its run being 
exceeded at that house only by What Price Glory ? 
which ran for twenty-three weeks, three days. But if 
the talkie duplicates the success of the first version, it 
will not be a complete triumph for the new treatment. 

Henry King’s long experience in directing silent pic- 
tures is responsible for the greatest factor in making the 
new Seventh Heaven superlative entertainment. The two 
outstanding performances, of course, are those of James 
Stewart and Simone Simon, and practically all the values 
of both performances are brought out by the camera. The 
most eloquent speech of Stewart, the one which made the 
lump in my throat expand to the point of pain, was one 
he did not utter. He tries to tell Diane that he loves her, 
but chokes and says nothing. There are perhaps a dozen 
emotion-producing scenes in the picture in which a few 
words are spoken, but whose values are expressed in visu- 
al terms. The picture is the nearest approach we have 
had yet to the perfect blending of the old and the new 
technique, the silent and the talkie forms. 

Ml ELVILLE BAKER’S screen play is brilliant screen 
writing. He never loses sight of the camera, never strives 
obviously for emotional climaxes, always balances nicely 
the causes and the effects until he gives us a logical succes- 
sion of events which maintains a smooth forward flow of 
filmic motion. And Henry King has molded the whole 
with the touch of a master. I always feel like applying 
the adjective “nice” to every picture Henry directs. He 
exhibits consistently the best of taste without sacrifice of 
dramatic values, and attains emotional power without sac- 
rifice of sensitivity and delicacy in intimate and tender 
scenes. Seventh Heaven must rank among the finest dem- 
onstrations of sympathetic direction the screen has given 
us. 

The picture is a triumph for James Stewart. He must 
be rated hereafter among the finest actors we have. In 
my review of the first picture in which I saw him, Rose 


Marie (Spectator January 18, 1936) I wrote: “What 
interests me in Stewart as a recruit from the stage is his 
intelligent and immediate grasp of the difference between 
stage and screen acting. He is a young fellow who will 
go a long way in pictures.” His role in Marie Was a 
brief one, but it revealed enough to make his brilliance 
in Seventh Heaven what we might have expected. Jimmie 
Stewart is a great actor. Simone Simon is an appealing 
Diane, a completely satisfactory piece of casting. Jean 
Hersholt is superb as always, John Qualen, J. Edward 
Bromberg, Victor Kilian completely competent in their 
various roles. 


« HE new Seventh Heaven runs ninety-two minutes. 
The old one was shorter. As the silent method of telling 
a story on the screen moved much faster than is possible 
for a talkie, there was more story in the play’s first ap- 
pearance on the screen. Not as much is made of the 
taxi driver which the late Albert Gran made so outstand- 
ing in the silent version, and which the loud, harsh voice 
of Gregory Ratoff makes the only disagreeable feature 
in the talkie. Missing also is the dramatic taxicab ad- 
vance from Paris carrying thousands of soldiers to the 
front line trenches. And I liked the ending of the silent 
picture better than I do the talkie’s. We saw Charlie 
Farrel fight his way through the armistice crowds, grope 
his way up the winding stairs to the seventh heaven, all 
the time crying the name of Diane until he felt her in 
his arms when his goal was reached. The emotional ap- 
peal of the sequence was terrific. In the talkie the situa- 
tion is reversed. Diane returns to the seventh heaven 
and finds him waiting for her, an ending much weaker 
emotionally. 

Another moment I looked for in the talkie disappointed 
me. I never will forget Janet Gaynor’s “I, too, am a re- 
markable fellow!” In comparison, Simone’s was weak. 
Nor will I forget Janet’s close-up as she sat in the gutter, 
her back to a cartwheel, after a beating by her sister. 
Simone’s lacked the appeal of Janet’s. 

However, although comparisons are suggested when 
the sound picture remakes a silent one, do not let any- 
thing I have written give you the impression that Seventh 
Heaven is not satisfactory screen entertainment. It is a 
great picture, has great production value, great perform- 
ances and is directed greatly. It would have been im- 
proved by a continuous score instead of only bits here 
and there of the Diane theme. Continuous musical back- 
ground is an essential of a dialogue picture, but the talk- 
ies are not old enough yet to know it. 


Dialogue As It Should Be 

QUALITY STREET, Radio production and RKO release. Starring 
Katharine Hepburn and Franchot Tone; from the play by J. M. 
Barrie; produced by Pandro S. Berman; directed by George Stev- 
ens; screen play by Mortimer Offner and Allan Scott; assistant 
director, Argyle Nelson; photographed by Robert DeGrasse; musi- 
cal score by Roy Webb; art director, Hobe Erwin; costumes by 
Walter Plunkett; set dressings by Darrell Silvera; recorded by Clem 
Portman; edited by Henry Berman. Supporting cast: Eric Blore, 
Fay Bainter, Cora Witherspoon, Estelle Winwood, Florence Lake, 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


Helena Grant, Bonita Granville, Clifford Severn, Sherwood Bailey, 
Roland Varno, Joan Fontaine, William Baltewell. Running time, 85 
minutes. 

/ . M. BARRIE dipped his pen in ink of a century and 
a quarter ago and sketched a group of characters 
which Radio presents in a series of animated Old Eng- 
lish prints. Quality Street is a delightful picture, a 
dainty, delicate thing, gentle in its humor and revealing 
vast respect for the customs and manners of its times. 
Visually beautiful, rich in literary value, leisurely in 
pace, it comes to the screen as a bit of old lace with a 
suggestion of lavender. Quality Street is a gossipy thor- 
oughfare with much subdued chattering about neighbors 
and spying between stealthily parted curtains. Barrie’s 
humor courses up and down it and none of it has been 
overlooked in the excellently written screen play of Mor- 
timer Offner and Allan Scott. Reflecting the psychology 
of a bygone era, it will require of its audience a mental 
readjustment which may limit its appeal to those who 
can be entertained by a mixture of three parts atmosphere 
to two parts action. 

To George Stevens, director, goes the major credit 
for the satisfaction the picture will give. Not in a long 
time have I seen another production in which the direc- 
tor’s contribution plays such a dominant part. Nor has 
any other production so vividly demonstrated the value 
of intelligent direction of dialogue. I have written a 
great deal about the harm done pictures by loud dialogue. 
It is the most potent mood-destroying agency the micro- 
phone has injected in screen entertainment, robbing 
scenes of the element of intimacy from which they draw 
all their strength. What all my arguments have aimed 
at is exemplified in Steven’s direction of this picture. 

QlJALITY STREET has little action and no great 
moments. It is a placid recital of trivialities affecting a 
generation whose only bequest to ours is in the form of 
traditions which interest us solely because we deem 
them as manifestations of people who lived in a narrow 
age. In themselves the manifestations have little enter- 
tainment value for us, therefore, when depicted on the 
screen, it must be the manner of their presentation 
which catches and holds our attention. We must not have 
the feeling that we are witnessing from a distance some- 
thing that happened long ago to people in whom we have 
no interest. We must be drawn into the midst of the 
happenings so completely we feel we are participating in 
them and not having them explained to us. 

By his direction of the dialogue Stevens gives us this 
essential feeling of intimacy. Not a voice is raised 
throughout the entire length of the picture ; the charac- 
ters speak only to oneanother, never at any time convey- 
ing the impression they are endeavoring to project their 
voices to an audience. This has more significance than 
merely a lack of unnecessary noise would have. Its cine- 
matic value has no relation to a volume of sound as such. 
What gives it its cinematic value is the feeling of inti- 
macy it creates. When such trivialities are being dis- 
cussed by people in whom we are not interested, it en- 
tertains us solely by virtue of putting us in the postion 
of being eavesdroppers listening to conversations not in- 


tended for our ears. Barrie’s stage play, of course, had 
to create something of the same impression, but the limi- 
tations of the stage did not permit it to develop the feel- 
ing of intimacy possible only to the screen. The picture 
pleases us by making us feel superior to the people on 
the screen ; we are getting an intimate view of their pri- 
vate affairs and they are unaware of it. All screen 
scenes in which dialogue is directed intelligently will 
create the same feeling. 

Another result of conversationally delivered dia- 
logue must always be a collection of practically perfect 
performances. Loud dialogue, on the other hand, always 
suggests the actor. A case in point is Gregory Ratoff’s 
performance in Seventh Heaven, also reviewed in this 
Spectator. As he has done in every picture in which I 
have seen him, in this otherwise perfect Century produc- 
tion Ratoff shouts his lines in his harsh, unpleasant voice, 
thus introducing an alien element which disturbs the unity 
of his scenes. To the initiated it looks like an effort to 
steal each scene instead of being a sympathetic contribu- 
tion toward assuring it complete harmony. None of the 
Quality Street players disturbs the harmony of scenes by 
attracting individual attention. Katharine Hepburn is 
delightful in her dual role as herself and her spurious 
niece. Franchot Tone is graceful and easy in a part which 
fits him neatly. Fay Bainter also stands out, as does Eric 
Blore in another of his capital comedy characterizations. 

Hobe Erwin is to be credited with doing an artistic job 
in bringing the period of the story to us in such an attrac- 
tive visual form. Robert DeGrasse’s photography also is 
one of the big assets of the production. Here again the 
direction comes in for mention. The background inspired 
grouping of people to attain highly artistic effects. In too 
many pictures artistic compositions are broken too prompt- 
ly into shorter shots, thus denying us the full effect of 
their beauty as a whole. Stevens does not commit this 
mistake. He gives us frequent shots in which the whole 
composition is retained even if there are but two people in 
the scenes. In fact, he makes Quality Street easy on both 
the ears and the eyes of the audience. 

Much to Recommend It 

WAIKIKI WEDDING, Paramount. Produced by Arthur Hornblow, 
Jr.; director, Frank Tuttle; assistant director, Richard Harlan; screen 
play, Frank Butler and Don Hartman, Walter DeLeon and Francis 
Martin; based on a story by Frank Butler and Don Hartman; sound, 
Gene Merritt and Louis Mesenkop; film editor, Paul Weatherwax; 
art directors, Hans Dreier and Robert Usher; photographer, Karl 
Struss, A.S.C.; special photographic effects, Farciot Edouart, A.S.C.; 
Hawaiian exteriors by Robert C. Bruce; dance director, Leroy Prinz; 
costumes, Edith Head; interior decorations by A. E. Freudeman; 
musical direction, Boris Morros; words and music, Leo Robin and 
Ralph Rainger; orchestrations by Victor Young; arrangements by 
Al Siegel and Arthur Franklin; SWEET LEI LA N I , by Harry Owens; 
Hawaiian lyrics by Jimmy Lowell. Cast: Bing Crosby, Bob Burns, 
Martha Raye, Shirley Ross, George Barbier, Leif Erikson, Grady 
Sutton, Granville Bates, Anthony Quinn, Mitchell Lewis, George 
Regas, Nick Lukats, Prince Lei Lani, Maurice Liu, Raquel Echeverria. 

O N the whole, worthwhile. Its visual beauty alone is 
„ worth the price of admission. The langorous Hawai- 
ian atmosphere envelopes it and accentuates the haunting 
quality of the native music. The wizard Paramount 


Page Eight 


March 27, 1937 


craftsmen recreated pieces of the island scenery and Karl 
Struss made them warmly rich by the quality of his pho- 
tography. Robert C. Bruce, another master cameraman, 
journeyed to Hawaii and brought back scenes of surpass- 
ing beauty that dignifies photographic art. Paramount 
did not stint itself in filling the screen with beautiful 
maidens and manly young men, in staging dances which 
express physically the rhythmic beat of Hawaiian strings 
and are accompanied by vocal interpretation of appropri- 
ate songs. 

Add to all this the presence of Bing Crosby, one of the 
screen’s most capable actors and pleasing singers; Shirley 
Ross with her charming personality and equally charming 
singing voice; Bob Burns with a pleasant little pig in- 
stead of his unpleasant bazooka, and a story which man- 
ages well enough to hold the whole thing together, and 
we have a film attraction strong enough to be entertain- 
ing in spite of a few annoying qualities. Music, of course, 
dominates, and rarely have vocal and instrumental num- 
bers been interwoven more alluringly in a succession of 
such beautiful scenes. 


M 


Y failure to include Martha Raye among the picture’s 
assets is due to my personal preferences in the way of 
comedy. She has talent, but Paramount is not develop- 
ing it. Acting ability might be summed up as proficiency 
in presenting a series of characterizations unlike one- 
another. Martha gave one in her first picture and has 
repeated it in the others, even though in her drunken 
scene in Rhythm on the Range she revealed a fine sense 
of comedy. In that picture her every turn was applauded 
loudly by the preview audience. At the Waikiki Wedding 
preview her applause was scattered and lukewarm. She 
screams a song in a voice that will rasp the stoutest nerves. 
By its manner of presenting her, Paramount is destroying 
what might be developed into a real box-office asset. 

I thought his bazooka finally would extinguish Bob 
Burns’ cinematic light, and I applaud heartily the substi- 
tution of the pig even though I regret their having called 
the animal Wafford. Every time his name was pro- 
nounced I thought I was being paged. For the first time, 
however, Bob’s performance completely pleased me. His 
personality is an asset. I have not met him, but I gather 
from his screen performances that he is a decent fellow 
worth knowing. An actor who can create that feeling has 
half his performance in the bag before he starts to work. 
The chief merit of George Barbier’s performance is its 
brevity. Another two minutes of his shouting of lines at 
the top of his voice would have the audience jittery. I 
have seen Grady Sutton in many productions and each 
time he has impressed me. I know of no one else on the 
screen who can match his cleverness at appearing dumb. 
Leif Erikson makes a brief part one of the highlights. 

Frank Tuttle’s direction makes good use of the various 
elements of the production except in those scenes in which 
the dialogue was allowed to make too much noise. 

Ludwig’s Good Direction 

HER HUSBAND LIES, Paramount release of B. P. Schulberg pro- 
duction. Directed by Edward Ludwig; screen play by Wallace 
Smith and Eve Greene; story by Oliver H. P. Garrett; photograph- 


ed by Leon Shamroy; art direction by Albert D Agostino; musical 
direction by Boris Morros; original songs by Burton Lane and Ralph 
Freed; set decorations by George T. Nicoll; film editor, Robert 
Bischoff; costumes by Edith Head; sound recording by Jack Good- 
rich; assistant director, Ray Lissner. Cast: Gail Patrick, Ricardo 
Cortez, Akim Tamiroff, Tom Brown, Louis Calhern, June Martel, 
Dorothy Peterson, Jack LaRue, Ralf Harolde, Bradley Page, Ray 
Walker. Running time, 75 minutes. 

YI7HA T the name of the picture was I cannot recall, but 
ff the direction Edward Ludwig gave it prompted me to 
place him on my list of young directors who were destined 
to do big things on the screen. Since then I have watched 
his work with growing conviction that I was right in my 
estimate of his ability. The forward movement of the 
story, its mounting drama and the excellence of the per- 
formances make Her Husband Lies decidedly worthwhile. 
The film industry through the years has taught the public 
so assiduously to look for stellar names on marquees be- 
fore entering picture theatres, the lack of such names in 
the cast of the Schulberg picture will not put it among 
the season’s, great box-office smashes, but it can be recom- 
mended without reservation as an engrossing piece of en- 
tertainment even though its atmosphere is unsavory and 
most of its characters gamblers and gunmen. 

Ludwig’s direction keeps the story intact, causes it to 
be a tightly knit succession of believable scenes building to 
a dramatic ending. But the picture is free from obvious 
efforts to produce dramatic effects. For all its outside- 
the-law episodes the story is told with the same simplicity 
that might be applied to a quiet rural drama. Ben Schul- 
berg has given it the kind of complete production we have 
learned to expect from him. The atmosphere of the story 
did not tempt him to disturb the filmic pattern by the in- 
trusion of the weird settings which appear in so many 
pictures to divert our attention from the story. 


i HE performances in Her Husband Lies also fit neatly 
into the pattern, and under wise direction have attained 
the quality that always makes screen performances perfect 
— the quality of naturalness which never suggests the 
actor. The atmosphere of the story has little to recom- 
mend it, but the manner in which it is told makes it 
worthwhile as screen entertainment, and credit for the 
manner of its telling goes to its direction. Oliver Gar- 
rett’s dramatic story was made into a consistent screen 
play by Wallace Smith and Eve Greene. Of course, there 
is far too much dialogue, but if our attendance at picture 
houses were prompted only by pictures with the right 
amount of dialogue, we would spend far more time at 
home than we do now. 

Thej-e are three nice young women in the picture, Gail 
Patrick, Dorothy Peterson and June Martel, who bring 
fresh air into the sordid atmosphere. Each of them does 
splendidly. Four of the finest performances you could 
hope to find in any one picture are those of Ricardo Cor- 
tez, Akim Tamiroff, Tom Brown and Louis Calhern. 
The cast is sprinkled liberally with minor characters w’ho 
deserve as much credit for their bits as the others do for 
their parts. Albert D’Agostino’s art direction and Leon 
Shamroy’s photography also are big contributions. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


Many Virtues and a Big Fault 

SWING HIGH, SWING LOW, Paramount release of Arthur 
Hornblow, Jr., production. Stars Carole Lombard and Fred Mac- 
Murray. Directed by Mitchell Leisen; screen play by Virginia Van 
Upp and Oscar Hammerstein II; based on play by George Manker 
Watters and Arthur Hopkins; assistant director, Edgar Anderson; 
costumes, Travis Banton; sound, Earl Hayman and Don Johnson; 
film editor, Eda Warren; art direction, Hans Dreier and Ernst Fegte; 
special photographic effects, Farciot Edouart; musical direction, 
Boris Morros; compositions and arrangements, Victor Young and 
Phil Boutelje; vocal supervision, Al Siegel; original songs, Ralph 
Rainger, Leo Robin, Sam Coslow and Al Siegel, Burton Lane and 
Ralph Freed, Julian Oliver; photographed by Ted Tetzlaff. Support- 
ing cast: Charles Butterworth, Jean Dixon, Dorothy Lamour, Harvey 
Stephens, Cecil Cunningham, Charlie Arnt, Franklin Pangborn, An- 
thony Quinn, Bud Flanagan, Charles Judels. Running time, 92 
minutes. 

O F first importance to a picture from a box-office stand- 
point is the impression the viewer takes away with 
him from the film theatre. In the creation of the impres- 
sion the story’s ending plays an important part as the view- 
er remembers longest what he saw last. The ending, af- 
ter all, is just about the whole story, events preceding 
it being but steps leading to a logical result. The story 
value of a lover’s quarrel is not the quarrel itself; it is 
its results, its effect on people in whom we have become 
interested. 

Swing High, Swing Low interests us primarily in the 
affairs of Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. We 
fall in love with Carole as soon as we see her; she is a 
good fellow, ingenuous, good to look at. Fred is a little 
too fresh when we first meet him, but his improvement 
meets our indulgence half way and we rather like him. 
He is an irresponsible lad, one who would drift aim- 
lessly without an anchor to windward in the person of 
a girl like Carole. But he can play a trumpet in a man- 
ner which in his hereafter should make him the logical 
successor to Gabriel, who by now must be getting quite 
old. And then there are the always dependable Jean 
Dixon as Carole’s loyal friend, Cecil Cunningham as 
an understanding night club proprietor, Dorothy La- 
mour’s singing and acting and Charlie Butterworth in 
a part which permits him to be almost sane, thereby be- 
coming the best part he has had in a long time. Some 
day some producer is going to be wise enough to cast 
Charlie in a deeply sympathetic role and he will prove 
a sensation. 

to the above personnel some opening shots giving 
us intimate views of the Panama Canal photographed 
with rare artistry; an abundance of tropical atmosphere 
glamorously sustained by the expert direction of Michell 
Leisen, fascinating music, clever comedy and pretty 
girls, the whole blended into genuine entertainment. 
The screen is crowded with life through which the thread 
of the story runs in a straight line which clever direction 
keeps taut and is responsible also for consistently excel- 
lent performances by all the principals as well as by 
those to whom bits were assigned. There is nothing lack- 
ing in the richly visual production Paramount provided 
nor in the camera work of Ted Tetzlaff and Farciot 
Edouart. 


For the first three-quarters of the footage the picture 
proceeds joyously and is giving us a good time. True, 
we cannot understand why Fred does not take Carole, 
his wife, with him from Panama to New York when he 
jets forth to conquer the metropolis with his trumpet- 
playing, but we refuse to permit it to worry us greatly. 
But when he permits Dorthy Lamour, who has preceded 
him to New York, to lure him into her coils and fail to 
keep his promise to send for Carole; when he becomes 
a drunken, unkempt bum, we become disgusted with him 
and with the picture. The last impression we carry away 
is one of dissatisfaction in spite of the favorable impres- 
sion the greater part of the film had created. 

Z ) RUN KENN ESS is a poor motivating element in a 
screen story. We measure the entertainment quality of 
a motion picture by the degree in which our interest and 
liking have been enlisted for the hero and heroine. We 
want all the actions of both to be their conscious reac- 
tions to the situations in which they find themselves. 
Drunkenness, in itself disgusting when it makes the hero 
a sodden wreck, has little value as a story element be- 
cause what a drunken man does leaves us with a feeling 
of being cheated, that but for the accident of drunkenness 
he would have acted differently. Certainly if I were 
writing a screen story I would deem myself a poor crafts- 
man if I could not contrive a more logical motive than 
drunkenness to explain the action of the hero. Swing 
High, Swing Low fades out on a painfully maudlin scene 
in which the efforts of Carole and Fred to raise it to 
emotional heights made me feel sorry for them. 

The performances of both of them, however, are excel- 
lent. MacMurray is coming along rapidly. His appeal 
is to both the male and female picture trade, which makes 
complete his conquest of any audience. One can speak 
of Carole only in superlative terms. She is composed 
entirely of cinematic talents and uses each of them in 
every performance. She can express more with a sigh 
than most actresses can with a sustained speech. I 
agree that Luise Rainer deserved recognition for her 
fine work in Ziegfeld, but she had everything to work 
with, the emotional possibilities of her telephone scene 
having been developed by the story and presented to her 
on a platter. My opinion is that the Academy award 
for the best performance last year by an actress should 
have gone to Carole for characterization in My Man 
Godfrey. It was purely her own creation. Inherently 
crazy in conception, the part left everything to the per- 
son playing it. There was no building to her scenes, no 
situations handed to her ready-made, no emotional values 
enabling her to get off with a flying start. To me it was 
the most brilliantly sustained performance of a year of 
many brilliant performances. And in this new Paramount 
picture Carole again is brilliant, her singing, a new tal- 
ent revealed for the first time, making her even more 
delightful than usual. 

Eyebrows Are Coming Down 

PERSONAL PROPERTY, Metro release of John W. Considine, Jr., 
production. Co-stars Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor. Directed by 


Page Ten 


March 27, 1937 


W. S. Van Dyke; features Reginald Owen and Una O'Connor; 
screen play by Hugh Mills and Ernst Vajda; from a play by H. M. 
Harwood; musical score by Franz Waxman; photographed by Wil- 
liam Daniels; wardrobe by Dolly Tree; film editor, Ben Lewis; as- 
sistant director, Dolph Zimmer. Supporting cast: Henrietta Cros- 
man, E. E. Clive, Cora Witherspoon, Marla Shelton, Forrester Har- 
vey, Lionel Braham, Barnett Parker. Running time, 88 minutes. 

FTER his impressive appearance opposite Garbo in 
the dignified and important Camille, it is a sad come- 
down for Bob Taylor to be seen in such a poor thing as 
this. Obviously it was turned out in a hurry on the Hol- 
lywood principle: “Get the money today and let tomor- 
row take care of itself.” Personal Property is an indif- 
ferent rehash of an indifferent British farce-comedy of 
situations, its appeal being in their comedy. W. S. Van 
Dyke directed it apparently in a hurry and with his mind 
on something else. The picture strikes only one new 
note: Jean Harlow’s eyebrows have slipped back to 

their original position. 

This eyebrow replacement again demonstrates the Pow- 
er of the Press. A few months ago Phil Scheuer and I 
threatened to join hands and use our respective publica- 
tions in a war on the increasingly upward trend of the 
eyebrows of the young women of the screen. At our 
first council-of-war we munched Brown Derby food and 
determined to delay our opening attack to see if the 
threat would not prove sufficient. So it proved to be. 
Eyebrows are coming down and our screen girls are 
losing their mechanically contrived, startled look. Again 
the power of the press has been demonstrated. 

There are other things in Personal Property, some of 
them highly amusing, but the whole thing is scarcely 
worthwhile. 

Undeveloped Possibilities 

WHEN LOVE IS YOUNG, Universal. Associate producer, Robert 
Presnell; director, Hal Mohr; original, Eleanore Griffin; screen play, 
Eve Greene and Joseph Fields; photographer, Jerome Ash; special 
effects, John P. Fulton; original songs, Jimmy McHugh and Harold 
Anderson; musical director, Charles Previn; art director, Jack Otter- 
son; stage number design, John Harkrider. Cast: Virginia Bruce, 
Kent Taylor, Walter Brennan, Greta Meyer, Christian Rub, William 
Tannen, Jean Rogers, Sterling Holloway, Nydia Westman, David 
Oliver, Jack Smart, Laurie Douglas, Franklin Pangborn. 

Q UITE conventional in all departments. It is Hal 
Mohr’s first fling at direction and gives evidence 
of his having concerned himself more with the mechanics 
of his script than with its human possibilities, a treat- 
ment we logically could expect from one making his 
initial bow as a director. Universal has given the pic- 
ture a handsome production and the photography of 
Jerome Ash makes it visually attractive. A particularly 
striking setting is one designed by John Harkrider. As 
entertainment, however, IV hen Love Is Young is quite 
ordinary despite the studio’s honest attempt to develop 
its possibilities. 

One of its weaknesses is the characterization given the 
leading man, played by Kent Taylor. The story concerns 
his romance with Virginia Bruce. A romance is accept- 
able entertainment only in the degree in which it makes 
logical the eventual marriage of the two parties to it. 
Kent is characterized as a disagreeable, snarling, un- 
reasonable young man who shouts insults at the girl with 


whom he is in love until the audience would have been 
pleased more if Virginia had batted him over the head 
with an ax-handle instead of going into his arms. 

The story is as meaty as the ordinary run of its kind — 
the home-town girl who goes to the city and makes good 
on the stage in the Big City. Its lack of entertainment 
is due to the manner of its treatment. 

F 

t OR instance, on a crowded dance floor an intimate 
conversation is carried on in tones which must have car- 
ried the words to the ears of at least half the other 
couples. You see the same thing in many pictures, a 
revelation of stupidity which is becoming one of my pet 
peeves. The argument used to justify it is that it pro- 
vides movement, an argument based on cinematic ignor- 
ance, as such a scene checks the movement of the story. 
Filmic motion is in no way related to physical motion. 
Hearing a boy and girl in loud tones exchanging con- 
fidences which we know in real life they would whisper 
to one another, checks the forward flow of the story by 
introducing an element which disturbs the continuity of 
our absorbtion in it. There would be more real motion 
in showing a boy and girl standing perfectly still in a 
romantic setting, their hands gradually getting closer un- 
til hers rests in his. The average director, however, 
thinks the only way to give a romantic scene what he 
considers motion is to have the girl climb a telephone 
pole and send the boy up after her to grasp her hand. 

Another disappointing feature of the Universal pic- 
ture is the scant treatment given the Harkrider setting. 
We get one comprehensive glimpse of it. Its beauty is 
breath-taking; it is one of the rarest visual treats the 
screen has given us, but just as our eyes are beginning 
to grasp the components of such a charming whole, 
there is a cut to a fragment to bring us closer to 
some action, and thereafter we must be content with 
peeks at various bits of it. Keeping all, or at least nearly 
all, the composition before us for the duration of the 
sequence would have been wiser film editing. However, 
we saw enough of the setting to gain an impression of 
what valuable contributions John Harkrider can make 
to the visual beauty of screen offerings. 

S OME fault can be found with the nature of some of 
the performances, but none with the manner in which 
all the members of the cast responded to direction. Vir- 
ginia Bruce again demonstrates what a talented young 
woman she is. It is not her fault that in the early se- 
quences she lays the agony on a bit too thickly, nor can 
we quarrel with her because of her failure to subject 
Taylor to the ax-handle treatment. She is beautiful to 
behold, has a singing voice of rich quality and uses it in- 
telligently. What Taylor has to do he does well. Walter 
Brennan gives his usual skilful performance, but toward 
the end it is his misfortune to be dragged into scenes 
to supply comedy touches where none should be. I was 
glad to see Christian Rub in an important role. A high- 
ly talented character actor, he is given too few oppor- 
tunities to display his wares. Other who deserve men- 
tion are Greta Meyer, William Tannen, Sterling Hoi- 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


loway, Nydia Westman, Jack Smart and Franklin Pang- 
born. 

I hope I have not conveyed the impression that When 
Love Is Young is a total loss. My complaint is that 
it could have been much better than it is, but perhaps it 
has quite enough merit to justify your seeing it. 

^Reviews by 
c Paul Jacobs 

Not Clever, But Cute 

GIRL OVERBOARD, Universal picture and release. Directed by 
Sidney Salkow; associate producer, Robert Presnell; original by 
Sarah Elizabeth Rodger; screen play by Tristram Tupper; photo- 
graphed by Ira Morgan; sound supervisor, Homer G. Tasker; spe- 
cial effects by John P. Fulton; film editor, Philip Cahn; musical 
direction by Charles Previn; art director, Jack Otterson; associate 
art director, Ralph DeLacy. Cast: Gloria Stuart, Walter Pidgeon, 
Billy Burrud, Hobart Cavanaugh, Gerald Oliver-Smith, Sidney Black- 
mer, Jack Smart, David Oliver, Charlotte Wynters, Russell Hicks, 
R. E. O'Connor, Edward McNamara. Running time, 58 minutes. 

A FLAMING sea-disaster, a relentless reporter and a 
corsage-pin murder are not quite enough to pull 
this one into the upper brackets. But Girl Overboard 
is perfect fodder for the unsophisticated. Among its 
many attractions is the presence of Walter Pidgeon, un- 
questionably one of America’s finest actors. His interpre- 
tation of the clean-cut, warmly human D.A. is the high- 
light of this film. 

And certainly far from least important is the win- 
somly sincere personality of Gloria Stuart. Her appeal 
was graphically expressed by the fervent comment of my 
preview companion, a young man of distinct taste. When 
I asked him how he liked the picture, his succinct come- 
back was: “Boy, would I like to meet her!” So would I. 

Particulary difficult is the job of Billy Burrud. I am 
one of those monsters who delight in tearing child actors 
limb from limb. His big scene, where he is pulled 
screaming from his dead mother, brought a big, warm 
lump into my throat. Hobart Cavanaugh, of course, is 
his utterly reliable self. Some day some bright producer 
will let Mr. Cavanaugh do something other than meek 
husband sleuthing detectives; and said producer will 
find he has long overlooked a real bet. 

^^N OTHER favorite of mine, that slick old meanie 
Sidney Blackmer, brings us another epicurean taste of 
pure and delicate villainy. Mr. Blackmer is seen much 
too seldom. Gerold Oliver-Smith does a cleverly light- 
tempoed burlesque on Hollywood’s idea of what a well- 
trained butler should be like. You will see Mr. Oliver- 
Smith frequently, I venture to predict. Vivid bits are 
supplied by Jack Smart, David Oliver, Russell Hicks, 
and Edward McNamara. And since no murder mystery 
seems complete without R. E. O’Conner lurking some- 
where in the background, he again assumes a badge and 
flat feet with the ease of habit. Although she appears 
but briefly, Charlotte Wynters makes her contribution 
vividly effective. 


Given the competent scripting of Tristram Tupper 
and the professionally smooth direction of Sidney Sal- 
kow, Girl Overboard is unimportant but compact enter- 
tainment. 

Color Can’t Compete 

REFLECTION, Featuretfes, Inc. From Liberty Magazine short 
short story, AT A PERFORMANCE OF PAGLIACCI, by Edwin 
Baird; produced by George S. Fox; directed by Tommy Atkins; 
screen play by Dale Armstrong; photography, Max Stengler; musi- 
cal director, Lee Zahler; color director, Roy Klaffki; film editor* 
Holbrook Todd; sound engineer, Glen Glenn; ballet direction by 
Theodore Kosloff. Cast: Esther Ralston, Pierre Watkin and Brooks 
Benedict. 

A CORKING idea is often spoiled by losing the idea 
*1 in its execution. That a series of “short-short” stor- 
ies would make pungent novelty subjects is true and an 
excellent way of inducing the return of single features. 
But Producer George S. Fox made the mistake of using 
color and of allowing its scope to interfere with the 
story. 

We have the action taking place during a performance 
of Pagliacci; the vivid swirl of color, the confusion of 
inter-splashed patterns of movement confuse us to the 
point of losing both the story and our interest. Un- 
able to focus our attention on either Pagliacci or the 
tribulations of Esther Ralston who, by the way, gives a 
brilliant performance, we wait for the final sign instead 
of the denouemont. 

However, the inner idea is sound; and Mr. Fox has 
my vote of thanks for a pleasurable anticipation of new 
filmic entertainment. 


Naish Is a Natural 

SONG OF THE CITY, Metro picture and release. Directed by 
Errol Taggart; produced by Lucien Hubbard and Michael Fessier; 
original story and screen play by Michael Fessier; music by Dr. 
William Axt; lyrics by Gus Kahn; recording director, Douglas 
Shearer; associates, Eddie Imazu and Edwin B. Willis; wardrobe by 
Dolly Tree; photographed by Leonard Smith; film editor, John B. 
Rogers; assistant director, Marvin Stuart. Cast: Margaret Lindsay, 
Jeffrey Dean, J. Carrol Naish, Nat Pendleton, Stanley Morner, 
Marla Shelton, Inez Palange, Charles Judels, Edward Norris, Fay 
Helm, Frank Puglia. Running time, 68 minutes. 

/ UST what Song of the City has to do with a song of 
,the city I couldn’t find out. But Song of the City is a 
pleasing song of the sea. We spend most of our running 
time in the tangy atmosphere of the fishing fleet at San 
Francisco. Little Italy with its lilting tempo lives joy- 
ously and gives us its vivid patterns. We spend our emo- 
tions on the tribulations of Papa Ramandi and his bam- 
binos. And we enjoy ourselves hugely. 

Out of the many impressions I carried away, two re- 
main most vivid. The first is a glow of pleasure I de- 
rived from the exceptional performance of J. Carrol 
Naish. Always tops, this trouper carries away the first 
half dozen places for acting. Whatever is left may be 
amiably divided among {he cast. My second impression 
is of the artistry displayed by director Errol Taggart. 
His creation of atmosphere is splendid. 

It occurs to me that I may have planted the idea that 
Song of the City would have cracked in two if Naish 


Page Twelve 


March 27, 1937 


were not in it. Let me hasten to say that this class B 
histronically is impregnable; and the mounting quite in 
keeping with the reputation M.G.M. has built around its 
technical departments. Expert editing by John B. Rogers 
and a smoothly progressive and forcefully thematic story 
by Michael Fessier complete an entirely efficient job. 
Song of the City is not a great picture or even an out- 
standing one. But see it if you get the chance. It is thor- 
oughly enjoyable. 

Mushy But Masterful 

GIRL LOVES BOY, Grand National release of B. F. Zeidman pro- 
duction. Harold Lewis production manager; directed by Duncan 
Mansfield; original story by Karl Brown and Hinton Smith; screen 
play by Duncan Mansfield and Carroll Graham; photographed by 
Edward Snyder; art direction by Edward Jewell; sound recorded by 
Ferol Redd; Abe Meyer, musical supervisor; special effects by Jack 
Corgrove; assistant director, Gaston Glass. Cast: Eric Linden, Ce- 
cilia Parker, Roger Imhof, Dorothy Peterson, Pedro de Cordoba, 
Bernadene Hayes, Otto Hoffman, Patsy O'Connor, Rollo Lloyd, 
Buster Phelps, Spencer Charters, Sherwood Bailey, Edwin Mordant, 
Jameson Thomas and John T. Murray. Running time, 75 minutes. 

HEN Duncan Mansfield and Carroll Graham trans- 
lated the original story by Karl Brown and Hinton 
Smith, they bore down too heavily on the heartstrings, 
giving us snatches of hokum in place of a uniform emo- 
tional appeal. Other than this misfortune, Girl Loves 
Boy is almost without blemish. As a director, Duncan 
Mansfield is more than capable, displaying a comprehen- 
sion far above his ability to discriminate in story values. 
I hope he leaves the writing to the scripters and concen- 
trates on the field he knows best. 

Before we discuss the other elements of Girl Loves 
Boy, I feel we should understand the principle that so 
completely governs the audience reaction to emotion. In 
brief, an audience can absorb only a specific amount of 
emotional strain. Beyond that limit, emotional emphasis 
goes stale, unless it is tempered by an alternate tempo. 
But best of all approaches is the continued emotional in- 
tensity built so smoothly that the final emotional peak is 
merely a consummation. It is the over-emphasis of pathos 
or any other impression that destroys the effect it aims at. 
Too much sugar or too much salt can spoil any food. And 
the emotions become hungry and must be fed just as much 
as any appetite. 

Coming back to Girl Loves Boy, you will notice when 
you see it that the acting is distinctly uniform in its ex- 
cellence. No more important factor exists in the force 
of audience appeal. From Eric Linden to John T. Mur- 
ray, the illusion is expertly maintained. So although Girl 
Loves Boy cannot be called first rate, it will give you 
seventy-five minutes of interest. 

Kibbee Gets His Man 

JIM HANVEY — DETECTIVE, Republic. Associate producer, Jo- 
seph Krumgold; director, Phil Rosen; story, Octavus Roy Cohen; 
screen play, Joseph Krumgold and Olive Cooper; adaptation, Eric 
Taylor and Cortland Fitzsimmons; photographer, Jack Marta; mu- 
sical supervision, Harry Grey; film editor, William Morgan. Cast: 
Guy Kibbee, Tom Brown, Lucie Kaye, Catharine Doucet, Edward S. 
Brophy, Edward Gargan, Helen Jerome Eddy, Theodor Von Eltz, 
Kenneth Thomson, Howard Hickman, Oscar Apfel, Wade Boteler, 


Robert Emmett Keane, Robert E. Homans, Harry Tyler, Frank 
Darien, Charles Williams. 

C ONSIDERING the unfortunate fact that it took five 
people to write this story, Jim Hanvey — Detective is 
better than I expected it to be, for despite its thin logic 
and haphazard progression this Republic offering has many 
minutes of pungent entertainment. And although director 
Phil Rosen passed up some of his best bets, he has man- 
aged to inject an intermittent flavor which carries the 
weight of tjie weaknesses. 

Another strengthening factor is the adaptation of Eric 
Taylor and Courtland Fitzsimmons. Guy Kibbee is par- 
ticularly well cast as the keen hayseed whose kindly phil- 
osophy is no hinderance to his ruthless ability to ferret 
crime. As usual, Tom Brown gives us a sincere portrait 
of a nice boy, and Lucie Kaye is sweet enough for any 
nice boy, but it is Catharine Doucet who captivated the 
preview audience. Her deft exaggeration of type won 
for her continuous response. 

Edward S. Brophy and Edward Gargan bring up an 
interesting question. Their work is always so uniformly 
good and always so uniformly the same that I cannot help 
but wonder why some producer does not take a chance and 
allow them to do something else, just to find out how 
good they really are. The same question goes for Helen 
Jerome Eddy. She is always convincing as the unhappy 
drudge. She surely would be just as good as a happy lady. 

I seem full of questions. Theodor Von Eltz brings up 
another one. Why isn’t he given his former prominence? 
Not as young as his first success, Von Eltz is finely pro- 
portioned, handsome, well possessed and a captivating ac- 
tor. I always look forward to his bits and I never have 
been disappointed. And in keeping with the old-guard 
tradition, the supporting cast of Kenneth Thompson, How- 
ard Hickman, Oscar Apfel, Wade Boteler and the rest 
of these past masters give Jim Hanvey — Detective its 
otherwise not too strong illusion of reality. Do not look 
for this picture; but there is no need to avoid it. 

Has Its Moments 

CALIFORNIA STRAIGHT AHEAD, Universal. Directed by Ar- 
thur Lubin; produced by Trem Carr; associate producer, Paul Mal- 
vern; original story by Herman Boxer; screen play by Scott Darling; 
photographed by Harry Neumann, A.S.C.; art direction, E. R. Hick- 
son; sound supervisor, Homer G. Tasker; musical director, Charles 
Previne; film editors, Charles Craft and Erma Horseley. Cast: John 
Wayne, Louise Latimer, Robert McWade, Theodore von Eltz, Tully 
Marshall, Emerson Treacy, Harry Allen, Leroy Mason, Grace Good- 
all, Olaf Hytton, Monty Vandergrift. 

O CCASIONALLY we see a picture which brings us 
j brief flashes of genuine entertainment. California 
Straight Ahead is an excellent example. It is too bad the 
ingredients of audience-appeal are not more carefully 
studied and more comprehensively applied. For California 
Straight Ahead, an original by Herman Boxer, has all the 
requirements of distinctive entertainment. And had script- 
er Scott Darling made his dialogue more convincing and 
director Arthur Lubin caught up a few more of the looser 
edges, this not-too-good B would take its place with the 
best. 

John Wayne gives a competent portrayal of the two- 
fisted trucker who gets what he goes after. It is interest- 



HoHywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


ing to note that Wayne seems destined to Big Trail epics. 
The Big Trail, as you will remember, gives us the saga 
of an heroic cross-country trek. California Straight 
Ahead repeats the tempo with gas wagons instead of cov- 
ered wagons. 

Mary Porter, a newcomer, shows definite promise; her 
work is not yet smooth but there are moments which show 
that Miss Porter is to be heard from later. Theodore Von 
Eltz is his usual flawless self ; and that grand old trouper, 
Tully Marshall, gives us the kind of bits that once made 
Hollywood great. 

Emerson Treacy is another we see too little of; his 
work is consistently good. First brought to the attention 
of screenland by his ability with the Henry Duffy players 
when he teamed with Gay Seabrook, Treacy has been 
neglected unfairly. In the same category is Leroy Mason. 
An amazingly versatile athlete, he personifies the out-door 
type. He is an all-around grand fellow, and I always am 
elated when I see his name on the credits. But for me, 
the high point of California Straight Ahead is the bril- 
liant characterization of Robert McWade. His irascible 
“Boss Corrigan” is a gem and typical of this old master. 
Others of significances are Harry Allen, Grace Goodall, 
Olaf Hytton and Monty Vandergrift. 

In summary, then, California Straight Ahead has mo- 
ments of brilliance which do not compensate for its weak- 
ness. But you could do a great deal worse with your 
money. 

(Reviews by 
CAllan Hersholt 

The Army Grows 

MIDNIGHT TAXI, 20th-Fox production and release. Directed by 
Eugene Forde; associate producer, Milton H. Feld; screen play by 
Lou Breslow and John Patrick; based on the story by Borden Chase; 
photographed by Barney McGill; art director, Hans Peters; assist- 
ant director, William Eckhardt; film editor, Al De Gaetano; cos- 
tumes by Herschel; sound by S. C. Chapman and Harry M. Leon- 
ard; musical direction by Samuel Kaylin. Cast: Brian Donlevy, 
Frances Drake, Alan Dinehart, Sig Rumann, Gilbert Roland, Harold 
Huber, Paul Stanton, Lon Cheney, Jr., Russell Hicks, Regis Toomey. 
Running time, 72 minutes. 

O Hollywood’s large and steadily-increasing army of 
B-class G-man productions is added Midnight Taxi, 
i Century offering superior in some respects to many of 
its predecessors and quite likely to gain approval from the 
majority of its spectators. At no time bearing even slight 
suggestion of notable cinematic art and disclosing none of 
the qualities that spell memorable screen entertainment, 
which is customary of this type of photoplay, it will 
achieve the purpose for which it has been fabricated. Very 
satisfactorily will it hold the secondary place of a double- 
feature program in any theatre, and the commercial out- 
come will cause its producers to give us at least one more 
like it. 

Recorded with conviction, the Taxi story has a wealth 
of exciting incidents, none of which bears the imprint of 
being contrived merely to keep the story going — a rarity 
in films of this sort. Thematically conventional, present- 


ing familiar situations and characters, the picture reveals 
direction that is considerably above the average. Eugene 
Forde’s interpretation of the Lou Breslow-John Patrick 
script, based upon a Borden Chase story, merits acclaim 
as a thoroughly creditable job. Again displayed in his 
work are notably good screen sense, sound knowledge of 
entertainment values and complete understanding of the 
material on hand. The picture moves briskly, vigorously 
and smoothly, sustaining suspense admirably. It offers 
some unusually fine photography, credited to Barney Mc- 
Gill, a master of his profession. 

Midnight Taxi is distinguished for a splendid portray- 
al by the dynamic Brian Donlevy, one of the most engag- 
ing he yet has given. If Century handled Donlevy’s career 
with more wisdom, he might be its leading male box-office 
attraction. He appears in far too many pictures, all of 
them of B classification, and almost invariably is cast as a 
G-man. If such treatment continues, his screen life will 
be short. Given four carefully-selected stories a year, 
something besides G-man material, he would, I believe, 
attain a place among the industry’s box-office leaders. 

Frances Drake’s performance is excellent, and convinc- 
ing work is done by Alan Dinehart, Harold Huber, Gil- 
bert Roland, Sig Rumann and the others. Particularly 
fine is that sterling actor, Regis Toomey, seen too infre- 
quently. Milton Feld, associate producer, has provided 
noteworthy guidance. 

With Thanks to Herbert 

THAT MAN'S HERE AGAIN, Warners release of a First Na- 
tional production. Produced by Bryan Foy; directed by Louis King; 
screen play by Lillie Hayward; from story by Ida A. R. Wylie; pho- 
tographed by Warren Lynch; Harold McLernon, film editor; Esdras 
Hartley, art director; Joseph Graham, dialogue director; Drew 
Eberson, assistant director. Cast: Hugh Herbert, Mary Maguire, 
Tom Brown, Joseph King, Teddy Hart, Arthur Aylesworth, Dorothy 
Vaughan, Tetsu Komai and James Burtis. Running time, 60 minutes. 

EAK, almost wholly transparent, commonplace, in- 
consequential and uninteresting in point of story, its 
efforts for compelling drama failing, yet I have no hesi- 
tation in recommending That Mans Here Again, a War- 
ner-First National “quickie.” The answer is Hugh Her- 
bert, whose extraordinary ability performs a small mir- 
acle by concerting this most unworthy narrative into a 
quite diverting little screen attraction. 

Were the production dramatically successful, I would 
center adverse criticism on the Herbert character. I 
would charge it with being out of place and I would call 
detrimental the fact that at nearly all of his appearances, 
story development is stopped to make way for comedy 
which has insufficient bearing on the plot. But because 
this series of interludes is practically the only redeeming 
feature the picture possesses, I have only praise for its 
inclusion. 

Fundamentally the flimsy narrative is not what the 
title immediately suggests — a comedy. It is dramatic, and 
its drama is a great deal too unsubstantial and devoid of 
genuineness for even slight commendation. Entirely lack- 
ing is suspense. 

I lay no blame to Louis King for the fact that the 
picture does not achieve its goal. He has tackled his 
tough assignment valiantly and merits praise for a sin- 



Page Fourteen 


March 27, 1937 


cere and satisfactory piece of direction. Surely the sev- 
eral well-directed pictures to King’s credit make him 
worthy of better material than this. 

Herbert is memorably funny in each of his scenes and 
has given no finer performance. A newcomer to Ameri- 
can films, Mary Maguire, reveals a pleasant personality 
and a fair amount of talent, but does not seem to have 
the requisites for major stardom. Tom Brown easily wins 
secondary honors with his excellent portrayal, and Teddy 
Hart’s few brief appearances are mildly amusing. 

You will not regret seeing That Mans Here Again if 
you are a Hugh Herbert admirer. And who isn’t? 

Formula Crook-Drama 

WE HAVE OUR MOMENTS, Universal. Directed by Alfred L. 
Werlter; associate producer, Edmund Grainger; original story by 
Charles F. Belden and Frederick Stephani; screen play, Bruce Man- 
ning and Charles Grayson; photographer, Milton Krasner; art di- 
rection, Jack Otterson; associate, Loren Patrick; film editor, Frank 
Gross; sound, William R. Fox and Edward Wetiel; special effects, 
John P. Fulton; musical drector, Charles Previn. Cast: Sally Eilers, 
James Dunn, Mischa Auer, Thurston Hall, David Niven, Warren 
Hymer, Marjorie Gateson, Grady Sutton, Joyce Compton. 

ERE is a story basically so antiquated one almost ex- 
pects to hear it creak. Meeting its characters is simi- 
lar to meeting old friends, and when not many feet of 
celluloid have been unreeled we know what is going to 
take place during the remainder of the picture. We know 
the elderly man and woman of culture and supposed re- 
spectability, but actually thieves, will be forced to sur- 
render to “the law,” which, in the person of a young 
man in disguise, is aboard the Europe-bound ocean liner 
carrying the crooks and their loot. We know that the 
pretty small-town American school teacher, on her in- 
itial European holiday, will become innocently involved 
with the criminals and that she and the detective will fall 
in love and quarrel. We know, at being introduced to 
him, that the debonair young Englishman will turn out 
to be another crook and eventually will be arrested with 
his confreres. We know, too, when first seeing the “mug” 
confederate, that his presence is merely for the purpose of 
supplying comedy relief. And we are far from surprised 
when the youthful detective, his job finally done, follows 
his extended misunderstanding with the girl by taking her 
in his arms. It is all old stuff, but quite entertainingly 
presented. 

We Have Our Moments has much to its credit. A 
smart, beautifully mounted production, it contains some 
good direction, highly commendable acting and adroitly 
written dialogue, much more dialogue, in fact, than is 
necessary — a condition that producers with disheartening 
consistency permit in their output and consequently not- 
able screen material often is weakened. Parts of the pic- 
ture would have carried more effectiveness, greater 
strength, had speeches been stripped to the essentials — 
and, too, had some of them been spoken in quieter tones. 
We are given a large quantity of comedy, some of it very 
amusing, some of it too strained and clankingly interpo- 
lated to win my approval. On the whole We Have Our 
Moments is enjoyable enough to warrant commendation 
as an offering well worth seeing. 


Alfred Werker’s direction is generally praiseworthy. 
Sally Eilers and James Dunn once more are teamed, the 
two sharing major billing with Mischa Auer. Miss Eil- 
ers, charming throughout, gives what seems to me her 
best portrayal, and Dunn’s work achieves complete suc- 
cess. David Niven does superbly, offering his most not- 
able screen work. The comedy is carried mainly by Auer, 
Warren Hymer and Grady Sutton, and of the three, 
Hymer’s is the superior performance. Most of the time 
Auer works too hard to be genuinely amusing. Thurston 
Hall and Marjorie Gateson are splendid. And an orchid 
to Milton Krasner, photographer. 

CINEMATIC FABLE 

By Mabel Keefer 

O NCE upon a time there was a great industry called 
the Film Industry. One day two travelers — Sam and 
John B. — who were journeying in the same direction, en- 
tered into a discussion of this industry in which both were 
vitally interested. 

Said John B.: “Your producers are to be congratulated 
on the marked progress they are -making in the quality of 
their screen entertainment. They’ve jolly well outdone 
themselves!” 

“Same to you, old man!” answered Sam. “In my esti- 
mation both your producers and mine are on the up-and- 
up. But there still is a good bit of climbing to be done.” 
“Righto!” said John B. “For one thing we’ve got to 
acknowledge the tremendous importance of the psycho- 
logical effect of the entertainment provided by the 
cinema.” 

“You bet we have!” Sam spoke with great earnestness. 
“Just the other day, my daughter, Columbia, said: ‘Dad, 
I do wish we could have more pictures that would give 
us zest for living. I like stories that make me feel that 
it’s fun to play the game.’ ” 

“My Britannia feels the same way,” replied John B. 
“She calls it ‘showing good sportsmanship in one’s man- 
ner of living.’ And she particularly likes pictures with 
the grandeur of your American scenery for a background. 
That, with real romance, humor — ” 

I^AM interrupted. “Ah, there you have it! Humor! Do 
you realize that much of the greatness of our two nations 
is due to the fact that we cultivate the sanity-promoting 
art of laughing at ourselves?” 

“Ver-r-y true! So-o-o we do!” responded John B. 

Sam stared for a second, then he grinned. “Oh, yes, to 
be sure! Gilbert & Sullivan.” 

“So you know your Gilbert & Sullivan?” queried John 
B. 

“And how!” replied Sam. His eyes twinkled. “That 
means that, indubitably, I know my Gilbert & Sullivan.” 
“Oh — er — that is — ” stumbled John B. Then, tri- 
umphantly — “Oh, yeah?” 

Sam shook his head. “Not too good — don’t let it get 
you!” 

“Britannia is always hoping for originality in cinema 
entertainment,” said John B. 

Sam chuckled. “Not long ago Columbia and some 
young man were discussing a picture they had just seen. 
They were particularly pleased with it because the story 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


was quite free from trite themes and hackneyed situations. 
She said: ‘It really is most encouraging. Perhaps the 
time will come when some producer will absentmindedly 
let the cat out of the bag by making a picture showing 
there are any number of people in this country — clever, 
up-to-date people at that — who get more of a kick out of 
popping corn than they do out of popping corks.’ 
‘Shush!’ implored the young man, looking around in 
mock terror — ’Tis rank treason thou dost speak! Hast 
forgot that walls have ears? . . . That the night hath a 
thousand eyes ? . . . But — and thou wouldst prove thy 
rash statement — go, get corn and popper, and hie thee to 
yon open fire that doth glow right valiantly.’ 

“As they sat before the fire I could hear them talking 
of different types of pictures they would like to see. And 
this should interest you! They spoke of screen stories 
written with your beautiful English countryside for a 
background ; stories for instance dealing with the days of 
the troubadours, which, they insisted, would make fine 
musical shorts if done by artists.” 

OHN B. exclaims, “Oh, I say, there’s an idea! ... Of 
course, as a whole the troubadours and minstrels were not 
an exemplary lot, but I daresay there was an occasional 
one who would do nicely as the hero of a musical love 
story.” He paused, then went on thoughtfully — “The 
music would of necessity have to be something quite dif- 
ferent. . . . And, as you say, done with a great deal of 
artistry. . . . Those superb artists of yours — ah — Miss 
MacDonald and Mr. Eddy — ” 

“Sorry, old man!” interrupted Sam, “ grant you that 
they would be ideal for a musical picture dealing with 
medieval days — I’d like mighty well to see them in a pic- 
ture like that myself. But as a matter of fact, Columbia 
and I hope that some day not too far distant, we’ll see 
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in another picture 
with our own great out-of-doors for a background ; and 
that whether they sing from a mountain top or in a cabin 
before an open fire, it will be as a part of the story, with 
an orchestral background done in such a manner that one 
feels the musical accompaniment, but does not consciously 
hear it.” 

“Fine idea, that!” said John B. “I must tell Britannia 
about it. She’ll be hoping for it too. . . . But about that 
troubadour picture. . . . Comedy of course. . . . Hm. . . . 
I wonder. . . . Whom have we to compare with Miss 
MacDonald and Mr. Eddy?...” 

“Possibly you have someone,” replied Sam, “but I’m 
from Missouri!” 

“Your from — ” began John B., looking puzzled, then 
— “Oh, yes, I know! You mean to tell me I shall have to 
show you.” 

“Righto!” said Sam. 

And they journeyed on, deep in thought; their minds 
filled with the great potentialities of the cinema. 


Your issue of February 27, which arrived after I had can- 
celled my subscription, was so good that I have changed my 
mind. I will get the money for it somehow — and perhaps 
piece-meal. We teachers in Portland were hard hit by the 
failure of our recent legislation, but we still need your com- 
ments if we are going to teach motion picture appreciation. So 
please send me the next issues after that mentioned above so 
that I shall not miss any numbers. , Portland, Oregon. 



EDWARD 

LUDWIG 

Directed 

“HER HUSBAND LIES” 

A B. P. Schulberg Production 


DAILY VARIETY 

“Direction of Edward Ludwig is 
an especially creditable piece 
of work. He has motivated his 
characters with rare skill and 
given the entire film a dramatic 
tensity ..." 


HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 

"Strikingly fine direction gives 
this remake of 'Street of Chance' 
a top position." 



Page Sixteen 


March 13, 1937 




“Quality” 


xMu&ldowney's 

^./FLOWER SHOPS 

7013 HOLLYWOOD BLVD. 
OPPOSITE Roosevelt Hotel 
Telephone: GLadstone 4-I-I-I 
NEW Private Exchange 


dtollywood cents 

SPECTATOR 

Twelfth Year Edited by WELFORD BEATON 

Number 3 MAY 8, 1937 Volume 12 


Make a Child Your Breakfast Quest 
Leo M cCarey Qives Us a Qreat Picture 
Story of Hollywood Yet to he Written 
Russian Picture Flouts Our Traditions 
RKO Rules Out the Interrogation Mark 
Another Article on Film Fundamentals 

Analytical Reviews of Late Pictures 

MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW * KID GALAHAD * A STAR IS BORN 
BEETHOVEN CONCERTO * SHALL WE DANCE? * CAFE METROPOLE 
WOMAN CHASES MAN * TURN OFF THE MOON * THE GO-GETTER 
DANCE, CHARLIE, DANCE * ANGEL'S HOLIDAY 
THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR * HOLLYWOOD COWBOY 


THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


May 8, 1937 


J. Walter Ruben 


With Sincere 

Directed 


Appreciation to 

THE GOOD OLD SOAK 
For 


J.WALTER RUBEN 

Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer 


“At any rate . . . the film version 
sparkles here and there with 
good dialogue and whole- 
hearted characterizations by 
such grand stock players as 
Janet Beecher, Ted Healy, Una 
Merkel, George Sidney, Robert 

j. 

CARROL 


Me Wade and Margaret Ham- 
ilton . . . TJhey gave the picture 
that all wool and a yard wide 
quality without which the Old 
Soak and its ancestors would 
have been readily forgotten. ” 
— New York Times 

NAISIH 


Janet Beecher 



METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 


MANAGEMENT 
WM. MORRIS 



Hollywood Spectator 




Page Three 



From the 




Editor’s Easy Chair 


YJJHEN you finish a good dinner this evening and light 
PT up your usual twenty-five-cent cigar, give thought 
to the fact that you are smoking what could have been 
breakfasts for eight children who need them. I learned 
that from Mrs. Joe Schildkraut. She is one of a group 
of Hollywood and Los Angeles women who are bent on 
doing something on behalf of the under-nourished young- 
sters who attend our public schools. Investigation con- 
ducted on a scientific basis to assure its accuracy, revealed 
there are two thousand children hereabouts who go to 
school every morning without breakfast, or with so little it 
really does not count. The reason is the poverty of their 
parents. That means under-nourishment, and under-nour- 
ishment is an invitation to tubercular germs and bugs 
which produce other varieties of disastrous human results. 
It also explains part of the tax bill you and I have to pay, 
for inadequately nourished children grow up into the 
patients treated in public institutions. 

However, when Mrs. Bill Dieterle heard about it, she 
did not think of it in terms of dollars and cents. She and 
Bill have quite a collection of pet charities which so far 
they have been successful in keeping out of the chatter 
columns, but here Mrs. Bill found one a little too big 
for her and Bill to handle alone. That any youngster 

should go hungry to school and sit through the morning 

with his fast unbroken until noon brought the sustaining 
lunch pro’vided by the women of the Parent-Teachers 
Association — that in this time of plenty and growing 

prosperity any boy or girl should go through life with the 

permanent handicap of early under-nourishment — well, 
something really had to be done about it, and Mrs. Bill 
saw to it that something was done. 


i» OJV we have the Children’s Breakfast Club, one of 
the kindest things ever thought of. Mrs. Dieterle heads 
it; and of course that grand woman, Mrs. Abe Lehr, is 
in it. When any charitable wheel begins to turn in Hol- 
lywood, you may be sure Mrs. Abe’s shoulder is helping 
it go. And there are Mrs. Jack Warner, Mrs. O. Ron- 
ald Button, Mrs. Salka Viertel, Mrs. Edgar Rice Bur- 
roughs, Mrs. Rufus von Kleinsmid, and several other 
fine women to keep it from being a purely motion picture 
enterprise. As Joe is in no way under nourished, Mrs. 
Joe Schildkraut is devoting most of her attention to the 
children who are. However, Joe is not complaining. 
It was he who put me wise to what is going on. 


The club wanted facts to go on. It interested milk and 
breakfast food concerns and found out that with their 
cooperation they could serve each child a nourishing, 
warm breakfast for three cents. But first it must get the 
three cents. That is where you and I come into it. The 
whole three cents will go for food. Ronald Button pro- 
vides the office and clerical expense, and Jack Warner 
provides all the printed matter. Ten dollars will provide 
breakfasts for one child for one year. During school 
terms the breakfast will be served at school ; between 
terms it will be delivered each morning to the child’s 
home. 

W 

Tf HEN you sit down to your bountiful breakfast to- 
morrow morning, give a thought to the little guest you 
might have with you. Just place three pennies on the 
table, and — presto! — little Polly will be beside you, Polly 
of the circles under eyes which look at you gratefully, 
whose cheeks will be sunken because of lack of what you 
will be providing, pale cheeks because there is not suffi- 
cient health behind them to push color into sight. And 
every morning when you place your pennies and Polly 
takes her seat, you will see the eyes lose their relative big- 
ness as the cheeks fill out, the limbs grow sturdy and the 
little body become plump. And all of it will be your 
doing. 

You unfortunate people who have no children in your 
home, can have one as your guest each morning for only 
what it costs to lick a stamp. And you bachelors to whom 
the film industry has been generous in return for what 
you do for it, you fellows who are grouchy in the morn- 
ing when you sit down to eat breakfast alone, just think 
what it would mean to have a little Polly beside you to 
help start the day aright — some weak little thing you can 
make strong for only three cents a day. And when Polly 
gets plump and rosy, you can chuck her out and take on 
Buddy and make a robust little devil out of him at a 
total outlay of three cents a day! If your imagination is 
sturdy enough to hold up its end, you can have a whale 
of a time merely by sending a check to the Children’s 
Breakfast v Club, Room 213, 6331 Hollywood Boulevard. 

By all means make a child your breakfast guest! 

* * * 


JTP to date, the aspirant for the Academy award for 
the best performance of this year will have to beat 
Bob Montgomery’s characterization in Night Must Fall. 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Wolford Beaton, 
president; Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollari 
the year; two year*, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies 20 cents. Advertising rates on application. 


Page Four 


May 8, 1937 


RITES Ed Schallert in Los Angeles Timess “The 
all-star cast is becoming more and more a necessity 
for the big picture in Hollywood. Is this because the 
fans are spoiled by those which have been offered al- 
ready? Within a year, if that’s so, it will become more 
and more difficult, not to say expensive, to assemble the 
required brilliant aggregations.” Hollywood’s present 
production policy ultimately must be brought back to a 
sane basis. Film programs are holding their audiences 
fairly well now only by the constant upward curve shown 
on the cost sheet. All-star casts, overpowering sets, great 
moving spectacles — all are entertainment elements which 
easily satiate audiences. To fill houses to the paying 
point, each such item must top the one which preceded 
it. That means that each must cost more than the one 
before it. The ingenuity of art directors and spectacle 
producers by no means is exhausted. They can go on 
topping their previous numbers if they are given sufficient 
money. But if they are to be relied upon to keep the in- 
dustry prosperous, as they are being relied upon now, 
they never will manage it, for the natural evolution of 
the million-dollar picture of today is the five million- 
dollar picture of tomorrow. Money is like dope; the 
more of it given you, the more you want. Producers 
ultimately must get over the notion they can make screen 
entertainment out of money. It is a mistaken idea which 
even the strong film industry is not strong enough to bear 
without ultimate collapse. The one ingredient which has 
the greatest box-office value is one which, as raw material, 
costs nothing — human emotions. When producers de- 
velop sufficient brains to give them an understanding of 
the nature of the business they are in, they will eliminate 
bewildering sets and fill the gaps with people with human 
impulses; their pictures will cost a fraction of their pres- 
ent cost, the public will be pleased and exhibitors will 
make money. 

* * * 

RODUCERS who burned with envy when Darryl 
Zanuck stole a march on them and signed Gypsy 
Lee, will point with pride to their higher regard for good 
taste when public indignation at the insult to decency 
prevents the showing of a picture with the strip-teaser 
in it. 

* * * 

r HE Dominos Revel, presented two evenings recently 
, in The Little Theatre In the Garden, provided some 
rare entertainment. There were twenty skits and black- 
outs on the program, all of them staged by Gene Lock- 
hart and sixteen of them written by him. And for good 
measure Gene acted as master-of-ceremonies, weaving the 
various turns together with a string of witty remarks 
which made each of his appearances a big item on the 
program. I have known him hitherto only as an actor, 
but now I can with confidence recommend him to pro- 
ducers as an exceedingly clever writer of a brand of high- 
class comedy they could use to their advantage. The 
whole program revealed a wealth of talent which sug- 
gests it would be wise on the part of studios to call home 
their scouts who are scurrying hither and yon in search 
of new faces and have the turns run over again for them. 
Robert Chisholm, handsome, stalwart, a perfect roman- 
tic type, possessor of a magnificent baritone voice, contri- 


buted one stirring number which combined rare dramatic 
acting ability with complete mastery of singing technique. 
He could be a sensation on the screen if he would go to 
London and let some scout from Hollywood discover him 
there. The foolish fellow came to Hollywood in the hope 
of getting into Hollywood-made pictures. Marek Wind- 
heim, a little chap, formerly with the Metropolitan, is 
an operatic singer with comedy talent the screen could 
use. Doris Lloyd, whose record of never giving a poor 
performance on the screen apparently means nothing to 
producers, does a bit of dramatic acting which held her 
audience spellbound. Kathleen Lockhart is another who 
stood out, both her acting and singing being loudly ap- 
plauded. The whole program was one which should fill 
a large theatre for many nights, and suggests the thought 
that Hollywood should have a continuous variety house 

with Gene Lockhart as its controlling genius. 

* * * 

P RODUCERS seem to be giving increasing attention to 
. the artistic possibilities of opening titles, a wide var- 
iety of new and striking treatments having been in evi- 
dence lately. Universal has taken a lead, blending move- 
ment and composition to attain pictorial results of high 
quality. A little attention might now be paid by pro- 
ducers to the other end of their pictures. When close-ups 
first came into use, some bright individual thought it 
would be a good idea to wind up a screen offering with 
a screenful of two heads with clinging lips. Not since 
then has Hollywood developed anyone with sufficient 
brains to think up anything which would banish the kiss 
close-up forever from the screen. There should be no con- 
ventions in any art. The last impression a picture viewer 
takes away with him is the last thing he saw on the 
screen, and Hollywood is stupid enough to make this last 
impression the same one as he carried away the night be- 
fore and the night before that. If I were a producer, I 
would be ashamed to allow a production of mine to go 

out with the same tag every other producer uses. 

* * * 

EIV YORK authorities have put strip-teasers out of 

business because “such acts are too filthy for New 
York audiences.” The exponents of this high art of being 
indecent need not worry. There are always Hollywood 
studios. Darryl Zanuck, who signed the first one in the 
person of Gypsy Lee, now has an opportunity to secure 
another score who are out of jobs, and give us a strip- 
tease ballet. Those taking part in it need not be trained. 
The only qualification is advance publicity, no matter how 
dirty. 

* * * 

CANNY young man named Leon Lord presides over 

the destinies of Hollywood’s future stars. On Cole 
Avenue is the Spotlight Theatre. If you hurry you may 
catch the final performance of House of Madness. June 
Wilkins, the clever progeny of Paul Wilkins, casting 
director for Republic, is starred. She, along with most 
of the other youngsters has something producers want. 

One mail recently brought thirty-one subscriptions to 
the Spectator from the Motion Picture Appreciation 
class of a junior college. 






Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


Some Late ^Previews 

Metro’s They Gave Him a Gun, a picture which will 
fail to give audiences much satisfaction, as it is made 
from an illogical, psychologically unsound story and is 
inappropriately cast, was previewed one day too late to 
enable a review of it to appear in this Spectator. It 
will be among the reviews in the next issue. 

Truly Great Accomplishment 

MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW, Paramount. Producer-Director, 
Leo McCarey; novel, Josephine Lawrence; play, Helen and Nolan 
Leary; screen play, Vina Delmar; photographer, William C. Mel- 
lor; special effects, Gordon Jennings; music, George Antheil; 
musical director, Boris Morros; film editor, LeRoy Stone; assistant 
director, Harry Scott. Cast: Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi, Fay 
Bainter, Thomas Mitchell, Porter Hall, Barbara Read, Maurice 
Moscovitch, Elizabeth Risdon, Minna Gombell, Ray Mayer, Ralph 
Remley, Louise Beavers, Louis Jean Heydt, Gene Morgan. Run- 
ning time, 90 minutes. 

BEAUTIFUL picture, one of those rare ones which 
memory puts on its list of those impossible to forget. 
See it now, and ten, twenty years hence you will be tell- 
ing the children about it, or will be living it over again 
with those who see it with you. That is the kind of pic- 
ture Make Way for Tomorrow is, fit to take its place 
among the best of all the silents and in its way the best of 
all the talkies. It is a little picture, its story about wholly 
unimportant people who merely live in front of us some 
incidents in their uneventful, commonplace lives; a pic- 
ture which has no dramatic moments, no brilliant dia- 
logue passages, no great stars, only one visually impressive 
sequence; but during its placid progress from fade-in to 
fade-out, it plays softly a symphony on your emotions, 
goes into your heart and leaves you, when you leave it, 
with a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes. Make 
Way for Tomorrow is an emotional assault which will 
become a part of screen history. 

Leo McCarey is more than just the producer and direc- 
tor of the picture. He is its creator ; it is his emotional re- 
sponse to the story’s appeal which has been photographed, 
the beats of his sympathetic heart which set its tempo. In 
the past identified principally with fast moving comedies, 
he was responsible for laughter and gay moments in film 
theatres and gave no hint of the heights he could reach 
with strongly human story material. So deeply was he 
impressed with the possibilities of Josephine Lawrence’s 
novel that he lived with it a full year without salary, 
steadily building a picture of it in his mind. He had Vina 
Delmar put it into a script as he saw it, selected the peo- 
ple for the various parts, imbued them with his own en- 
thusiasm, and during shooting lived with them in a little 
world his and their emotions had created and which only 
the camera invaded to bring to our outer world what it 
saw inside. 

Outstanding among the many fine things the 

screen reveals as the film unwinds, is its lack of direct bid 
for our emotional response. It is a romantic tragedy, its 
romance culminating in marriage fifty years before the 


story opens, its principals, as we see them, two dear old 
people who have five sons and daughters, all comfortably 
situated, but too occupied with their own affairs to pro- 
vide a joint home for their parents when the old home in 
which the children were raised was taken over by the 
bank. The last scene shows the old father taking a train 
for California to live with a daughter, the old wife bound 
for a home for aged women as soon as the train departs. 
For half a century they had lived together; for the short 
rest of their lives a heartless, unheeding continent would 
separate them. That is all the story there is. 

But at no spot in its telling is there a maudlin moment, 
no obvious effort to gain our sympathy, no invitation to 
the tears which come unbidden to eyes in the audience. 
Even the two victims of the tragedy of unfilial thought- 
lessness enter no complaints, weep no tears, ask for no 
sympathy. They feel deeply, it is true; and we feel with 
them. If the children could see through the masks the par- 
ents wear, as the camera sees through them, the story 
would not have reached its closing scene, one in which the 
dry-eyed old people exchange a gentle farewell kiss while 
each tries to deceive the other with the simulated sincerity 
of their assurances that soon they will be together again — 
one of the most poignant moments in the annals of screen 
entertainment. 

T 

I HE picture is a psychologically sound example of screen 
craftsmanship. The measure of the emotional response a 
film creation earns marks the degree in which it has 
achieved its purpose as entertainment. It is not its mis- 
sion to photograph emotion for us to ape ; its mission is to 
make suggestions which our imagination weaves into facts 
which appeal to our sympathy and induce our emotional 
reaction. This picture, therefore, with its lack of direct 
appeal to our sympathy, is constructed along authentic 
cinematic lines. It has that precious quality of apparently 
being indifferent to the existence of an audience. 

McCarey ’s direction throughout is particularly notable 
for its freedom from audience influence, for its lack of 
resort to timeworn devices to emphasize a story point, to 
cause a laugh or coax a tear. He takes us into the homes 
of members of one family and permits us to acquaint our- 
selves with what is happening in them. He puts no value 
on the happenings, does not present them as being any- 
thing out of the ordinary, merely allows us to witness 
them and make of them what we will. 

The emotional appeal of the picture is cumulative. Let 
us take one incident, a trivial thing in itself but made 
powerfully appealing by the careful building of all which 
goes before. The old people, on their last evening to- 
gether and while awaiting the time of the train’s depar- 
ture, visit the now fashionable hotel at which they spent 
their honeymoon half a century before. In the restaurant 
the orchestra is playing a waltz, and they decide to dance. 
As they reach the floor, the music turns into fast modern 
tempo which completely bewilders the romantic couple. 
The orchestra leader notices them among the many danc- 
ers, stops the fast music and starts the dreamy old waltz, 
“Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The old man smiles his 
thanks, the leader smiles, and the dance goes on. 



Page Six 


May 8, 1937 


I HERE is not much to the scene I describe. The or- 
chestra leader never saw the old people before, nor they 
him. He is a young fellow with kind instincts; the old 
man and his wife are nice people; it is just an act of 
ordinary courtesy to play a dance for them. But if you 
can sit in your seat in a film theatre and view that scene 
dry-eyed; if a lump does not crowd your throat the in- 
stant you hear the first bar of the old sweetheart song and 
realize that here is a strange young man giving the charm- 
ing old people what their own children deny them — well, 
if the scene does not affect you that way, you must be 
some sort of cold fish who should stay away from pictures. 

A piece of discerning casting was Victor Moore’s selec- 
tion for the part of the old husband; rather brave, too, 
for most of his screen appearances have been as a twittery, 
amusing half-wit whose sole duty was to provoke laughter. 
In the McCarey picture he gives us a characterization of 
extraordinary merit, a deeply human portrayal which 
gives him i^nk as one of the screen’s greatest actors. And 
as much praise can be given Beulah Bondi, who plays the 
wife. A tremendously pathetic figure she is, but she is 
made so by the conditions which surround her. No word 
of complaint does she utter in the entire picture. Maurice 
Moscovitch impresses again as a really great artist ; Fay 
Bainter, of course, gives a splendid performance, and oth- 
ers who contribute greatly to the artistic perfection of the 
production are Thomas Mitchell, Barbara Read, Eliza- 
beth Risdon, Minna Gombell, Ray Mayer, Louise Beavers. 

evidence of the thoroughness of McCarey’s prepara- 
tion for the production, his meticulous attention to detail 
in building it to assure perfection in all its details, is the 
presence in the cast of as excellent an actor as Porter Hall 
to speak but one line. Paul Stanton, another established 
actor with many sympathetic performances to his credit, 
also plays a small part. And rounding off the parade of 
practically perfect performances is that of Louis Jean 
Heydt, who, in the few moments we see him, presents us 
with an acting gem. No picture ever has offered a more 
perfectly directed group of players. 

And no other picture has demonstrated more vividly the 
potentialities of the screen as a social force. In essence it 
is a sermon, its text presented on the screen at the outset: 
“Honor thy father and mother;” but it is none the less 
gripping as a piece of screen entertainment which as such 
will earn close attention and wide acclaim. No other 
medium of expression could match the strength with 
which it drives home its lesson, yet throughout its course 
are sprinkled many chuckles and amusing incidents. It is 
as if itself were unaware it had any social significance, as 
if its only foncern had been from the start to acquaint us, 
for no particular reason, with what was happening within 
the family circle of the wholly unimportant Mr. and Mrs. 
Barkley Cooper. And as we watch what is happening and 
listen to the sentiments which motivate it, we learn a 
great deal it is good for those who have parents, or are 
parents, to know. 


It Is Poor Screen Writing 

A STAR IS BORN, United Artists release of Selinick-lnternational 
production. Produced by David O. Selznick. Starring Janet Gay- 
nor and Fredric March. Directed by William A. Wellman; original 
story by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson; screen play by 
Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell and Robert Carson; designed in 
color by Lansing C. Holden; music by Max Steiner; photography 
by W. Howard Green; art direction by Lyle Wheeler; Edward 
Boyle, associate; costumes by Omar Kiam; special effects by Jack 
Cosgrove; Hal C. Kern, supervising film editor; James E. Newcom, 
film editor; Ray Flynn, production manager; recorded by Oscar 
Lagerstrom; Eric Stacey, assistant director; Natalie Kalmus, color 
supervisor for Technicolor. Supporting cast: Adolphe Menjou, May 
Robson, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, Peggy Wood, Elizabeth 
Jenns, Edgar Kennedy, J. C. Nugent, Guinn Williams, Clarence 
Wilson and Vince Barnett. Running time, I I I minutes. 

J\AFE SELZNICK did his end of it splendidly, giving 
AJ A Star Is Born a notable production, which, even 
with the cheapening effect of color photography, still 
makes the picture an almost continuous series of pictorially 
attractive scenes. The technicolor experts also did their 
end of it well, demonstrating definite progress in subduing 
the color until it gives little offense to the eye and holds 
out promise of attaining perfection by further develop- 
ment to the point of the total disappearance of color from 
the screen. And writers of the screen play are to be com- 
mended for their valuable contribution to the screen as a 
whole. They have left the screen story of Hollywood 
still to be written, and a great story it can be if written 
by someone with knowledge of the soul of Hollywood 
and skill in expressing it in cinematic terms. 

Physically an artistic and obviously expensive pro- 
duction which reflects Selznicks’s desire to give the public 
full return for its money, in its other aspects it is cheap in 
both theme and sentiment. It probably will earn a profit 
by virtue of its presentation of Hollywood scenes which 
will interest the world at large, the newsreel quality of 
the production being its chief asset. Spiritually it is a 
lame presentation of Hollywood, not even approaching 
realization of its possibilities as screen material. It tells 
a story of an unknown country girl’s rise to film stardom 
without developing fully the tragedy of heartaches with 
which the path to stardom is strewn. Thus it becomes, 
not a story of Hollywood, as I presume it was intended 
to be, but one of an extraordinarily lucky girl whose 
experience never has been duplicated and probably never 
will. 


A HE genuine Hollywood story will be one motivated 
by experiences peculiar to the film capital and which 
could be found nowhere else. The Star Is Born is mo- 
tivated by drunkenness which wrecks the career of a male 
star just it would wreck the career of a steel worker in 
a Pennsylvania mill or a physician in Alabama. Made 
in Hollywood, undoubtedly it will be accepted as a true 
representation of Hollywood conditions, an authentic 
document which suggests that alcohol figures largely as 
a factor in screen affairs. The story weakness of this 
treatment lies in the narrowness of its application; it af- 
fects no one but the person who drinks, making it logical 
for the public to presume that keeping sober is all one has 
to do to prolong his career as a star. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


And there are so many other things, possible only in 
Hollywood, tragic things which could have been made 
the motivating factor of the story. Instead of an indict- 
ment of the screen personnel, the picture so easily could 
have been a defense of the film colony as a whole. Fred- 
die March’s performance as the star who becomes a drunk- 
ard, pleased me more than any he has given, but the man- 
ner of his fall from the height of greatness will not earn 
him sympathy. It is entirely his own fault, and his fall is 
the logical outcome of his individual folly. His characteri- 
zation could have been made tremendously impressive 
and wholly sympathetic if the responsiblity for his loss 
of popularity has been ascribed to the fickleness of the 
public or to any one of a dozen other influences over 
which he had no control and which reflected no discredit 
on him personally. Thus, instead of our viewing him 
with disgust, we would have wept in sympathy with him 
for having been made the victim of something which may 
have happened to anyone in pictures. 

HE drama of the country girl’s sudden rise to fame is 
not developed. We do not see her in the moment of her 
triumph. When our interest lies with her, when we wish 
to be with her to be witnesses of her realization that all 
her dreams have come true, we are placed outside the 
theatre to listen to the departing audience recording in 
conversation the fact of her success. That is how we are 
made aware a new star has been born. What could have 
been presented to us dramatically is related to us in chance 
remarks by people unknown to us and whom we happen 
to overhear. We were subjected to the same thing when 
the girl made her first test. We see the test start, and the 
next thing we see is a contract with the girl’s name 
signed to it. There was a rare chance for an emotional 
treat in the test scene — ; the bored attitude of the people 
on the set; to them, just another test; the awakened in- 
terest as the test proceeds; to us, surprise that the girl 
should be so good ; on the set, amazement, acclaim — any 
amateur screen writer could have made of it a great 
screen moment. 

But the greatest story weakness, an incomprehensible 
exhibition of sheer ignorance of the most elemental prin- 
ciples of the screen, is the manner of the presentation of 
the story as a whole. The first thing we see is a page of 
the script, with shooting directions for the opening scene 
of a picture. It fades into the action it describes. At 
the end of the picture the last thing we see is the script 
for the final scene, describing the action as we have seen 
it. Unless a picture can convince us we are looking at 
reality, we can derive no entertainment from it. The il- 
lusion of reality, therefore, is the first thing a motion 
picture must create; we must feel we are looking at real 
people moving in a three-dimensional world, that the 
things happening them are real, not makebelieve ; that 
what we are viewing is life, not a motion picture. 

The producer spends almost a million dollars in making 
a piece of screen entertainment and starts it off with doc- 
umentary evidence of its status as something he does not 
expect us to take seriously; and to keep us from carrying 
away an impression if its authenticity in case we forget 


the opening display of the script page, he puts the last 
one on the screen to remind us that what we looked at 
was phoney. In a dozen years of reviewing pictures I 
cannot recall having seen a comparable exhibition of 
downright screen stupidity, of such astounding ignorance 
of the spirit of film entertainment. 

ANET GAYNOR gives a performance of more 
strength than I looked for. The few previous pictures in 
which she essayed something more demanding than in- 
genuous girl type, revealed nothing to entitle her to seri- 
ous consideration as an actrees, but in A Star Is Born , 
a new star, indeed, has been born. She proves herself 
entirely proficient in a role of many emotional facets. 
Adolphe Menjou gives such an excellent, intelligent per- 
formance that he probably will get but little credit for 
it. Apparently he merely walks through the picture, does 
no acting, is merely the big producer, all of which forms 
an impression only the most skillful acting can create. 
Andy Devine is another who is a little better than usual. 
He is a clever fellow. 

Lionel Stander, another capable actor, carries the bur- 
den of a characterization which adds one to the other 
weaknesses of the production. In the last of his import- 
ant scenes he is made to reveal a viciousness wholly un- 
believable and out of character. It is a clumsy device to 
explain March’s action in starting to drink again. Of 
far more story value would it have been if March had re- 
sumed drinking without more prompting than that of his 
lust for liquor. The maudlin attempt to justify his de- 
bauch by having Stander make an unprovoked and illogi- 
cal attack on him, is in keeping with the other revela- 
tions of poor writing by the authors of the screen play. 

Stirring Prize-Ring Picture 

KID GALAHAD, Warners. Executive producer, Hal B. Wallis; 
associate producer, Sam Bischoff; director, Michael Curtiz; original 
novel, Francis Wallace; screen play, Seton I. Miller; photographer, 
Tony Gaudio; music, lyric, M. K. Jerome and Jack Scholl; dialogue 
director, Irving Rapper. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, 
Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris, Jane Bryan, Harry Carey, Wil- 
lian Haade, Soledad Jiminez, Joe Cunningham, Ben Welden, Jo- 
seph Crehan, Veda Ann Borg, Frank Faylen, Harland Tucker. 

JJITE the best prize-ring picture the screen has given 
us. All about fighters and their managers, Kid Gala- 
had still has a spiritual quality which gives it definite and 
sustained emotional appeal. The production gets its 
greatest strength from the personalities of two young 
people, Wayne Morris, who plays the name part, and 
Jane Bryan, who plays his sweetheart. The desire to see 
the young fellow become world’s champion and the rom- 
ance of the two end at the alter, is what keeps our inter- 
est alive. We root for both of them because we like them 
and wish them to have anything their hearts desire. 

One of the constant chirpings of the Spectator has 
been that the screen is not an acting art, that all it asks 
of a player is that his absorption in his part be so com- 
plete that he reacts subconsciously to its demands — that 
he is the person he plays, not an actor pretending he is 
such person. Motion picture producers hold a contrary 



Page Eight 


May 8, 1937 


vfew — that their actors must be trained in stage acting, 
not in screen acting. Clad in the impenetrable armor 
of their confidence in their judgement, it is impossible 
for them to comprehend that these two young people in 
Kid Galahad proved the soundness of the Spectator's 
contentions regarding screen acting. They do not act, 
both of them lacking the age and experience essential to 
their mastery of anything they set out to learn. Under 
Mike Curtiz’s wise guidance they present themselves, 
doing what they would do in real life if the same situa- 
tions and conditions confronted them. Thus they give 
perfect screen performances. They are new to us, thus 
making it easier for our imaginations to accept them as 
the people they play. We do not judge them by standards 
they previously had established. Properly handled, each 
will become an outstanding screen favorite. 

w 

ff ITH them in the cast we have Bette Davis and Ed- 
ward Robinson whom we have seen so frequently we 
cannot escape judging their performances by the standards 
they have set for themselves. That constitutes the handi- 
cap they face when they strive to make us believe they are 
the persons they play. They have a much longer road 
to travel. Each of them plays excellently, neither ever 
was more impressive. Several times Robinson has been 
given much the same part to play, and once more a 
bullet puts an end to his appearances. I do not see that 
his death was the logical demand of the story, but it is 
not an important objection. 

Bette plays what really is a secondary role, but her 
complete mastery of it and the sheer force of her person- 
ality, make it stand out as a beautifully etched characteri- 
zation. She plays it with quiet self-effacement, with no 
histrionic flights to remind us that she is an oustanding 
dramatic actress. As it appears to me, Bette revealed 
that she is a regular trouper when she consented to as- 
sume the part. Humphrey Bogart plays a character of the 
sort he should be permitted to get away from, that of a 
dead-pan gangster of whom the public at large must be 
getting as tired as I am. I cannot understand how pro- 
ducers can fail to realize that Bogart is the ideal type for 
sympathetic roles. Our old friend, Harry Carey, is ex- 
cellent in the role of a trainer of fighters, and Soledad 
Jiminez gives us another of her little acting cameos. 
Joe Cunningham makes one of the most convincing news- 
paper men I have seen in any picture. Various other small 
parts and bits were handled with a skill which reflects 
credit on both players and director. M. K. Jerome and 
Jack Scholl, composer and lyricist, contributed a tuneful 
song which was sung effectively by Bette Davis. 


IKE CURTIZ performed a miracle in giving such in- 
herently messy story material such strong and evenly 
maintained sentimental appeal. The esthetics of the prize 
ring and prize-fight racketeers have not been developed 
quite up to the standards set by the higher and less robust 
arts, but Mike serves them to us in a manner which holds 
our unwavering attention during the entire running of the 
film. We have had no finer examble of quiet, human scenes 


being presented with such understanding and compelling 
force as to prompt a large audience to reward them with 
the hearty applause usually accorded only big, dramatic 
moments in previewed pictures. The vigor of the prize 
fight scenes — the whole thing is sprinkled with them — 
makes them as thrilling as real fights can be. It is some- 
thing to the credit of a director who in one picture can 
handle a tender, boy and girl love scene and a hectic 
battle between two pugilists, with equal authority. 

Sam Bischoff, associate producer, adds another to his 
long list of worthy screen productions. He has succeeded 
in giving us a prize fight picture which surely will be 
liked by those who do not like prize fights. Seton I. Mil- 
ler’s screen play, Curtiz’s direction, and Sam’s production 
knowledge combined to give us a series of fistic combats 
which are not merely exhibitions of physical skill. They 
are fought before a background of emotional significance, 
to the accompaniment of our sentimental interest in the 
effect they will have on two young people for whom we 
have developed deep affection. And that is wh^ - you 
should see Kid Galahad even if you regard prize fighting 
as too vulgar for words. 


Assault on Question Mark 


SHALL WE DANCE? RKO. Producer, Pandro S. Berman; direc- 
tor, Mark Sandrich; story, Lee Loeb and Harold Buchman; adapta- 
tion, P. J. Wolfson; screen play, Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano; 
music, George Gershwin; lyrics, Ira Gershwin; photographer, David 
Abel; special effects, Vernon L. Walker; dance director, Hermes 
Pan; ballet director, Harry Losee; musical director, Nathaniel Shil- 
kret; film editor, William Hamilton; assistant director, Argyle Nel- 
son. Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, 
Eric Blore, Jerome Cowan, Kettii Gallian, William Brisbane, Har- 
riet Hoctor, Ann Shoemaker. 


II7HEN RKO eliminates at least twenty minutes of 
rr the story of Shall We Dance? and puts a question 
mark after the main title, it will have another Astaire- 
Rogers picture which should duplicate the success each 
of the preceding ones has scored at the box-office. Taking 
out some of the story will be a simple matter of weilding 
shears to snip off the film some of the nonessential story 
fragments which made the picture as previewed drag to 
the yawn-producing point. But putting a question mark 
after the main title — well, that is quite another matter. 

RKO executives already have considered gravely the 
question of the question mark and have handed down a 
decision of tremendous import, one which shatters what 
hitherto had been regarded as a fixed principle of punctua- 
tion. Without warning they shake the faith of all educat- 
ed people in the things they learned at school and college, 
and assume a dictatorship over language-usage which will 
bring a blush to the leaves of all the books on the world’s 
library shelves. The executives, after due deliberation, 
handed down the decision that the interrogation point is 
unconstitutional. And now at a time when we are har- 
assed by strikes at home and war scares abroad — when we 
would prefer to devote all our thought to Wally Simp- 
son’s wedding and Bob Feller’s pitching arm — we have 
the abolition of the question mark to worry obout. 


/aRE we free men or are we slaves? Beg pardon! Are 
we free men or are we slaves. Are we going to stand for it. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


Shall we dance to the tune those RKO executives play. 
I, for one, am all for the organization of a Restitution 
Party whose aim will be the reversal of the decision by 
packing the RKO executive force with six primary-school 
children and asking for a rehearing. The children, God 
bless them, will uphold the question mark’s right to recog- 
nition. They will put Pan Berman, chief injustice of the 
RKO court, just where he belongs. The big sissy — pick- 
ing on the cute little question mark! He need not think 
he has me scared. Bah! ???? That for him! 

For a picture which reveals such gross ignorance before 
it starts, Shall W e Dance? turns out to be capital enter- 
tainment, thanks chiefly to Fred Astaire’s contribution 
to it. He has more to do, and Ginger Rogers has less, 
than in any of their previous joint productions. Most of 
his dances are solos and each of them reveals his complete 
mastery of his art. His enjoyment in his task, the intel- 
ligence reflected in his approach, the exquite grace of his 
effortless movements, combine to make each of his ap- 
pearances a terpsichorean treat which will create enthu- 
siasm in even the most blase audience. And Fred is com- 
ing along rapidly both as an actor and as a singer, playing 
his part with more assurance and attacking his songs with 
more vigor. But his chief asset is the charm of his per- 
sonality which illuminates everything he does. Those who 
see him only on the screen know as well as those who are 
acquainted with him in person, that Fred Astaire is a 
nice fellow, a rather shy, clean living, decent young man. 
That impression, more than his dancing, singing and his 
acting, is responsible for his box-office strength. We like 
the things he does chiefly because he, our friend, is doing 
them. That he does them so well is an added pleasure. 

r 

\JINGER ROGERS is another who is coming along as 
an actress, seemingly being more at ease in this pic- 
ture than in any previous one. She still has some distance 
to go with her dancing before hers ceases to suffer in com- 
parison with Fred’s. Her chief difficulty is the use of her 
hands. In the ballet sequence, Harriet Hoctor’s hands are 
fascinating to watch. When Ginger dances, her hands, 
particularly her right one, are just expressionless things 
at the far ends of her arms. But, I said in a review of 
their previous picture, I admire greatly Ginger’s grit in 
sticking to her determination to make her skill match that 
of her partner’s. Edward Everett Horton gives us another 
of his completely satisfying performances, and Jerome 
Cowan, Ketti Gallian and William Brisbane make fav- 
orable impressions. Eric Blore, always the brilliant com- 
edian, rounds off his performance with a telephone scene 
which is one of the funniest things presented on the 
screen. It is a superb bit of comedy work. Harriet Hoc- 
tor’s extraordinary graceful dancing was rewarded at the 
preview with a hearty burst of applause. The screen 
could stand a lot more of what she can contribute to it. 

Mark Sandrich directed with the competence we have 
learned to expect from him. In story, production and 
music he had a wealth of material to blend into a smooth- 
ly running whole, and he has made a fine job of it. The 
music of the Gershwins did not appeal to me as having 
outstanding quality, but I do not set myself up as an 


authority on the subject. I will go just as far as to say 
that if I hear anyone whistle anything from Shall We 
Dance? I will be surprised. The story idea is amusing, 
but it is told in too many words and scenes. The pro- 
duction is magnificent, Van Nest Polglass and Carroll 
Clark having provided settings which prove strikingly 
effective. Their values are brought out admirably by the 
excellent quality of David Abel’s photography. There is 
one particularly beautiful shot of a ship moving along 
New York’s waterfront on a misty night. Nathaniel Shil- 
krets’s direction of the music makes the most of what 
values it contains. 

Russia Sends Us a Lesson 

BEETHOVEN CONCERTO. Produced by Belgoskino, Leningrad, 
U.S.S.R.; directed by V. Schmidthof and M. Gavronsky; scenario, 
B. R. Pkhor. Cast: Vladimir Gardin, A. Larikov, A. Melnikov, M. 
Taimanov, V. Vasiliev, K. Eliasberg. 

HE fellows who make pictures over in Russia have a 
quaint way of going at things. It is evident they are 
not profiting from what Hollywood could teach them. 
For instance, take Beethoven Concerto, a recent impor- 
tation of the Grand International Theatre, which opens 
there May, 7. It has no romance, no stars, no villain, no 
acting, no comedy relief, no sex appeal, no thrills, no im- 
posing sets, no strip-tease artists, no story complications. 
Anyone in Hollywood could have told the poor blunder- 
ing Russians they would get nowhere with a production 
which lacked all these elements. At least half of them — 
or, anyway, a stripteaser and one other — must be on hand 
from the beginning if the picture is to have a ghost of a 
show of getting anywhere. But lacking Hollywood’s grasp 
of screen essentials, and, in any event, the only Gypsy 
Lee having been cornered by Darryl Zanuck to make 
audiences wonder what she would look like with no 
clothes on — a nice little touch which would add enor- 
mously to the atmosphere of good taste of the pictures 
she appears in — there was nothing for the Russians to do 
but carry on with their minus materials and make the best 
of it. 

And what they made is one of the finest bits of screen 
entertainment it has been my good fortune to view, one 
which cries to Hollywood to take heed and do like- 
wise. Just before seeing it I had written a paragraph 
about Hollywood’s habit of making motion pictures out 
of money instead of human emotions. (See Easy Chair) 
Beethoven completely supports my contention. It lacks 
all the physical elements I enumerated, but is filled to the 
brim with emotional values. It is the theoretically perfect 
picture for American audiences, as our unfamiliarity with 
the players in it makes it easy for us to accept them as the 
people they play. Without effort it establishes the essen- 
tial illusion of reality. 

HE theme of the story is one of high esthetic value. 
It is about music and children, but by no means is a 
picture for children only. It is clean and decent, spirited, 
at times amusing, at all times emotionally appealing. 
Two boys are preparing for a national contest to select 
students for the conservatory of music. Strong, loyal 


Page Ten 


May 8, 1937 


friendship exists between them. One is the son of profes- 
sor of music, the other the son of a railroad engineer. A 
prank annoys the generally genial professor and he re- 
fuses to give further lessons to the engineers son. We 
have here a demonstration of the relativity of dramatic 
values. To the boy the cessation of instruction at such 
a crucial time is a real tragedy. So beautifully has the 
story been told, so completely has its mood been estab- 
lished and our sympathy established for the central 
figures, that we share with the boy the full force of the 
tragedy. 

The story is told quietly, naturally, and never suggests 
either the actor or the director. Dialogue is read in easy, 
conversational tones, the superb music featured in the 
production is played softly enough to be easy on our ears 
without losing any of the musical values composers put 
in it. So completely are we carried along by the story, 
the brilliant success of the two boys at the national trials 
will produce one of the rare emotional thrills the screen 
gives us too infrequently. It shows what can be done in 
the way of making decency entertaining. 

r 

CASTING was done expertly. The professor is what 
we would expect him to be, a stoutish, good natured, 
softly spoken fellow, merely suggesting the artistic type. 
Hollywood probably would have cast Gregory Ratoff 
in the part to develop comedy by screaming at his pupils. 
The engineer is just an engineer; and the two boys differ 
in appearance and temperment precisely as we would ex- 
pect the sons of two such different fathers to differ. 
A girl is prominent in the cast, just a girl. As I recall her, 
I believe she wears the same dress all the way through. 
I know she is without lipstick or make-up of any kind. 
What Hollywood would have done with her is a disturb- 
ing thought. There is an airedale dog who contributes a 
great deal to the air of authenticity the picture creates. 
All the many people on the screen are at complete ease 
in every scene. The children are permitted to be children, 
not encouraged into being actors. There is no glamor 
of any sort ; it is as if the picture was too intent on being 
human to take on any airs which would have suggested 
the artificial. 

I cannot refrain from once more claiming that here is 
a picture which supports the Spectator's theories as to 
what constitutes the proper talkie form. Whole sequences 
have no spoken word, yet the photography attracts no 
attention to itself. It is pure homespun, like all the other 
elements. A technical feat of outstanding quality is the 
synchronization of train noises with music as an accom- 
paniment to an important sequence which takes place dur- 
ing a railroad journey. It is handled much more artisti- 
cally than was the same treatment in Monte Carlo made 
by Ernest Lubitsch a few years ago. 

The dialogue is in Russian, but the picture has English 
titles much more illuminating than most of those we have 
had in other similarly treated foreign-made pictures. 
Question marks are appended to all translated questions, 
which will cause RKO studio executives dreadful annoy- 
ance. However, they should take into consideration the 


fact that the picture was edited before the executives 
handed down their decision declaring the question mark 
unconstitutional and banishing it from the screen. 


CAFE METROPOLE, Twentieth Century-Fox. Directed by Ed- 
ward H. Griffith; associate producer, Nunnally Johnson; screen 
play by Jacques Deval; original story by Gregory Ratoff; photog- 
raphy, Lucien Androit, A.S.C.; art direction, Duncan Cramer and 
Hans Peters; set decorations by Thomas Little; assistant director, 

William Forsyth; film editor, Irene Morra; costumes, Royer; sound, 

Joseph Aiken and Roger Heman; musical direction, Louis Silvers. 

Cast: Loretta Young, Tyrone Power, Adolphe Menjou, Gregory 
Ratoff, Charles Winninger, Helen Westley, Christian Rub, Ferdi- , 

nand Gottschalk, Georges Renavent, Leonid Kinskey, Hal K. Daw- 
son, Paul Porcasi, Andre Cheron, Andre Beranger. 

HEN we first see the hero (Tyrone Power), he is i 

drunk in a Parisian cafe. The head waiter (Adolphe 
Menjou) adroitly eases him out of the place and receives 
a thousand-franc tip from the young American drunkard. 

The next sequence reveals Menjou as an embezzler, 
jointly with Christian Rub, of the cafe’s money, Rub 
being a bookkeeper. Then we go to a gambling club where 
Adolphe has the bank at baccarat. Tyrone loses nearly half 
a million francs in one deal. A little more sober now, he 
writes a check to cover his losses; crumples the check and 
confesses he has no money in any bank. Club officials are 
about to handle the young man roughly, but Adolphe res- 
cues him, picks the check from the floor, and later Adolphe, 
on threats of imprisonment on the charge of what the 
headwaiter calls “forging” a check, forces Tyrone to agree 
to make love to the daughter (Loretta Young) of an 
American millionaire (Charles Winninger), the idea be- 
ing to get enough money from Winninger, in the way of 
a marriage settlement, to enable Adolphe to restore what 
he had stolen from the cafe. 

A screen romance has entertainment value only to the 
extent of our regard for the parties to it, and our desire 
to see it end happily is dependent upon the degree of our 
respect for them. We can become interested in a purely 
intellectual way in the working out of the romance of 
two people we do not respect, but a screen creation con- 
taining that sort of romance lacks the emotional appeal 
which spells box-office success. We watch it much as we 
would a game of chess between two players who had no 
interest to us as individuals. Here we are asked to be- 
come interested in a hero who is a drunkard and a cheat, 
a^girl the daughter of a millionaire who is ass enough to 
radio a head waiter to have wild strawberries for himself 
and celebrities for his daughter awaiting him when he 
reaches the cafe; and the head waiter, really the leading 
character in the story, is an embezzler. 

HE ingrediants I list could have been mixed to pro- 
duce a hilarious farce too amusing and ridiculous to chal- 
lenge our critical sense. But Cafe Metropole is “played 
straight.” We are asked to believe it and respond emo- 
tionally to it. It is motivated solely by the threat of im- 
prisonment of a young man who committed no crime, 

Power himself protests that French law does not recognize 
a gambling debt; Menjou agrees, but charges Power with 


Rather Illogical Story 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


having “forged” a check, notwithstanding that he signed 
his own name to it. The law’s non-recognition of the 
debt makes the check just a piece of paper for which its 
drawer received no consideration, which in turn makes 
the fact of its being drawn on a non-existing bank account 
no concern of the law. I can write a check for any 
amount and on a bank in which I have no money, give it 
to you as a present, and I have committed no crime. 
But if I accept anything from you of material value — 
if I give you the check in payment of a legal debt — I can 
be prosecuted. In addition to all this, Power thinks he has 
destroyed the check and informs a half dozen witnesses 
it is no good, thus putting him beyond prosecution for 
criminal intent even if the check had been written for 
value received. It is the use to which a check is put, not 
the act of writing it, which brings it within reach of the 
law. 

So with this unsoundly constructed story and a cast 
of unsympathetic character, Ned Griffith set himself to 
the task of telling us an entertaining story. He is one of 
the most capable directers serving motion pictures, but 
the fundamental weaknesses of the story he had this time 
made his job a tough one. The presence in his cast of 
Gregory Ratoff made it impossible to keep the dialogue 
below a headache-producing volume of noise, even though 
in two or three scenes Ratoff spoke in a conversational 
tone, a blessed relief from his customary roar. Possibly 
working under influences he could not control, Griffith 
permitted Loretta Young and Winninger to scream at 
one another in a long scene which is the nerve-wracking 
peak of the production. 

T 

1 HERE is a psychological fact pertaining to loud screen 
dialouge which directors do not take into account. 
It is that every person in a film theatre is theoretically 
as close to a character on the screen as the camera was 
when the scene was shot. In this Loretta-Winninger 
scene, we are taken into the bedroom in which the two 
are quarrelling; in close-ups of the two we are standing 
within inches of them. The microphone and the camera 
are alike in bringing things close to us. In a living thea- 
tre the volume of dialogue sound is mellowed by the dis- 
tance it has to travel from the players on the stage to the 
people in the audience ; it is louder to those in the orches- 
tra seats than to those in the gallery. 

In a film theatre the volume of sound is alike to all 
members of the audience, irrespective of the location of 
seats, the microphone having some strange power to pro- 
ject a whisper as far as it can a shout. This bedroom 
scene annoys us in two ways: physically by virtue of the 
impact of the loud noise on our nervous system, and psy- 
chologically by the lack of necessity for so much noise. 
In real life we have no patience with a man who addresses 
us more loudly than his distance from us makes necessary 
to our understanding of what he is saying. We regard 
screen dialogue in precisely the same way. Taking us 
into the bedroom of two people quarrelling in real life 
does not make it impossible for us to flee when the uproar 
becomes too much to bear. In a film theatre we have to 
sit and suffer. 


And there is another point about this particular scene 
which suggests comment applicable to others like it. If 
Loretta and Winninger had been given lines cleverly 
sarcastic and also witty, lines which would have their 
values enchanced by quiet and bitter reading, the scene 
would have been stronger dramatically, more entertain- 
ing, and without offense to our aural nerves. Shouting 
has no place in screen entertainment, never has had, and 
never will have when scenarists learn to write sarcasm 
instead of uproar for quarrel scenes. 

P OSSIBLY by this time you are wondering if Cafe 
Metropole is worth seeing. It is, if you are prepared to 
overlook the faults I have enumerated. Pictorially it is 
most attractive, Nunnally Johnson having seen to it that 
its settings matched the best of those being shown during 
this year of so many elaborate and artistic productions. 
Duncan Cramer, Hans Peters, and Thomas Little, respon- 
sible jointly for the visual quality of the picture, deserve 
the highest praise. Royer’s gowns worn by the women 
appealed even to my masculine, untutored eye. Lucien 
Androit’s camera work attains rare quality, one scene 
in a flower shop being photographed so expertly that each 
blossom gives you the impression you could pluck it from 
the screen. Another shot interested me. Loretta stands 
in the foreground, her figure sharp against the indistinct 
background. She sees something in the background; it 
clears; without losing her, we see what she sees in the 
background, which becomes indistinct again as she turns 
her back to it. That is an example of good photographic 
art and pure cinematic art, as it is through Loretta’s eyes 
we see what she sees. 

All the performances in the picture will please you, if, 
again, you can overlook the story weaknesses. Young Pow- 
er is coming along amazingly. In every phase of his un- 
fortunate characterization he reflects the perfect actor, 
completely at home in every situation. Loretta Young, 
whose screen appearances always please me, is her usual 
sweet and capable self Adolphe Menjou should not appear 
in so many pictures. I have only so many superlatives at 
my command and I feel I should not use them twice in 
the same Spectator. To what I say about him in my 
Star Is Born review, written before this one, I say ditto. 
Winninger was wise casting for the part he plays, and 
Helen Westley’s grande dame is an acting gem. Christian 
Rub, an actor I admire greatly and yet hope to see in a 
part worthy of his talents, makes his short characteriza- 
tion stand out prominently. 

And for his musical direction of the production Louis 
Silvers is to be commended. The music will be responsi- 
ble for a generous share of whatever satisfaction Cafe 
Metropole will give audiences. 

Crazy Sort of Thing 

WOMAN CHASES MAN, Samuel Goldwyn production for 
United Artists release. Features Miriam Hopkins and Joal Mc- 
Crea, Charles Winninger, Erik Rhodes, Leona Maricle, Ella Logan 
and Broderick Crawford. Directed by John G. Blystone; associate 
producer, George Haight; story by Lynn Root and Franklyn Fen- 
ton; screen play by Joseph Anthony, Manuel Seff and David Hertz; 
photographed by Gregg Toland; art director, Richard Day; sets, 


Page Twelve 


May 8, 1937 


Julia Heron; costumes, Omar Kiam; musical direction, Alfred New- 
man; film editor, Daniel Mandell; assistant director, Eddie Bernoudy. 
Supporting cast: Charles Halton, Roger Gray, William Jaffrey, 
George Chandler, Mary Frances Gifford, Alan Bridge, Monte 
Vandergrift, Jack Baxley, Walter Soderling, Al K. Hall, Dick 
Cramer. Running time, 70 minutes. 

f ARCES take liberties with everything, and that in- 
cludes the standard of film criticism which might be 
applied when a reviewer is measuring the virtues of this 
Sam Goldwyn offering. If you read Spectator reviews 
to help you select the pictures you wish to see, I can be of 
no use to you in the case of Woman Chases Man. If you 
like a frothy thing which moves rapidly, is presented 
handsomely and has outstanding artists like Miriam Hop- 
kins and Joel McCrea wasted in parts which could have 
been played as well by any two members of a studio 
stock company; and if you like a generous dash of impos- 
sibilities in your screen fare, then you probably will en- 
joy this farce comedy directed by Jack Blystone. 

I enjoyed it. I enjoy seeing Joel McCrea on the screen, 
no matter what he does; and in a slightly lesser degree 
I enjoy Miss Hopkins’ appearances. They develop all 
the possibilities of their roles, but the demands of the 
roles are so elemental any other couple could have played 
them as well, which is why I say they were wasted in 
such a trivial story. The same thing goes for Charlie 
Winninger, Erik Rhodes, Leona Maricle, Ella Logan, 
and Broderick Crawford. All of them assist in keeping 
the story hopping along to the almost continous accom- 
paniment of audience laughter. Enter into the mood of 
it, accept the impossibilities as possibiliities because you 
see them happen, and you will have a nice time. There 
is no mob scene in the picture, but by way of compensa- 
tion Sam Goldwyn had Lynn Root, Franklyn Fenton, 
Joseph Anthony, Manuel Self and David Hertz colla- 
borate in writing the story. 

And having got the thing out of his system, Sam had 
better go back to his regular business. 

Loud, But Entertaining 

TURN OFF THE MOON, Paramount. Producer, Miss Fanchon; 
director, Lewis Seiler; based on story by Mildred Harrington; 
screen play, Marguerite Roberts, Harlan Ware and Paul Gerard 
Smith; musical director, Boris Morros; music and lyrics, Sam Cos- 
low; arrangements, Victor Young and Phil Boutelje; vocal supervi- 
sion, Al Siegel and Max Terr; photographer, Ted Tetzlaff; art direc- 
tor, Hans Dreier; dance director, LeRoy Prinz; costumes, Edith 
Head; assistant director, Edgar Anderson. Cast: Charlie Ruggles, 
Eleanor Whitney, Johnny Downs, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris and Or- 
chestra, Ben Blue, Marjorie Gateson, Grady Sutton, Romo Vincent, 
Andrew Tombes, Constance Bergen, Franklin Pangborn, Albee Sis- 
ters, Christy and Gould, The Fanchonettes. 

HETHER its volume of sound was put into it at its 
source or only happened to come out at the preview, 
I do not know, but I do know T urn Off the Moon, as I 
heard it, is the loudest musical picture we have had. It is 
difficult to estimate the merits of a screen offering when 
the feature of its showing which commands your chief 
attention is the unnecessary din it is creating. If you are 
indifferent to noise, or if the noise at the preview was the 
fault of the gentleman who presides over the gadgets in 
the projection booth, I can recommend Turn Off the 


Moon to you as being fully up to the average standard 
set by the season’s music-dance-spectacle features. It is 
the first screen production of Fanchon and suggests no 
reason why Paramount should regret its action in adding 
her name to its roster of producers. 

The story is frankly a bunch of nonsense which at no 
stage asks the audience to take it seriously. At first it 
gives promise of developing a pretty romance between 
Eleanore Whitney, a cute little thing with big, wonder- 
ing eyes and nimble dancing feet, and Johnny Downs, a 
good looking boy with the screen’s greatest box-office as- 
set, an engaging personality. To please an audience, all 
the two of them have to do is to play themselves. The 
development of the romance, however, is purely mechani- 
cal ; they meet, love, quarrel, separate, meet again, love 
again, all in a space of a few hours. And to remind us 
it is a standard screen romance, the last we see of them 
is in a fervid embrace with its customary kiss embellish- 
ment. The Academy should hang up a prize for the first 
writer who can devise another ending for a screen ro- 
mance. 

w 

ff HERE Fanchon was given an opportunity to reflect 
on the screen her long experience in staging dance spec- 
tacles, the new producer is at her best. One number was 
particularly impressive. A group of girls, carrying a 
cloud of bubbles on their shoulders, their feet on large 
globes which they propel in a series of evolutions, is a 
real novelty in the way of ensemble presentations. Para- 
mount has given the picture an elaborate and pictorially 
effective production, Hans Dreier excelling himself in 
designing sets. Their visual values are developed fully 
by the expert photography of Ted Tetzlaff. 

Sam Coslow contributes both the words and music for 
four songs which should be well up on the season’s list 
of popular numbers. Johnny Downs reveals himself as 
no mean singer. Kenny Baker, Romo Vincent and Phil 
Harris also please with their vocal efforts. For the first 
time in the credit list, I see “vocal supervision,” which 
was entrusted to Al Siegel and Max Terr, the wisdom 
of their choice being made apparent by the commendable 
results achieved. Ben Blue’s clever comedy pretty nearly 
steals the show. Charlie Ruggles gives us his usual brand 
of comedy, but reads his lines much too loudly and with- 
out shading to match the moods of his various scenes. He 
maintains an even level of loudness which finally becomes 
monotonous. Grady Sutton and Romo Vincent give sat- 
isfactory performances and Franklin Pangborn sparkles 
in a couple of scenes. 

To Lewis Seiler goes boundless credit for bis masterly 
handling of the widely diversified elements he had at his 
command. It is no easy task to create smooth forward 
progression of audience appeal with a script composed so 
largely of interpolated numbers, but Lew manages to do it. 

Is Much too Noisy 

DANCE, CHARLIE, DANCE, Warner release of a First National 
picture. Associate producer, Bryan Foy; directed by Frank Mc- 
Donald; from the play, THE BUTTER AND EGG MAN, by George 
S. Kaufman; screen play by Crane Wilbur and William Jacobs; 
music and lyrics by M. K. Jerome and Jack Scholl; photographed 
by Warren Lynch; assistant director, Sherry Shourds; film editor, 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


Frank Magee; art director, Carl Jules Weyl; dialogue director, 
Harry Seymour; musical director, Leo F. Forbstein. Cast: Stuart 
Erwin, Jean Muir, Glenda Farrell, Allen Jenkins, Addison Richards, 
Charles Foy, Chester Clute, Mary Treen, Collette Lyons, Tommy 
Wonder, Frank Faylen, Robert Homans, Harvey Clark, Olive Ol- 
son. Running time, 64 minutes. 

ANYONE who can stand a full hour of shouting by 
*1 Allen Jenkins should see Dance , Charlie, Dance. 
For others, there is not a great deal in the picture to re- 
commend it as satisfactory entertainment. Frank Mc- 
Donald is one of the most promising young directors in 
the business, already having given us in Smart Blonde 
one of the most brilliantly directed productions of last 
year. This time he was given an exceedingly poor script — 
and Allen Jenkins, two handicaps which the most experi- 
enced director in Hollywood could not overcome sucess- 
fully. It seems impossible to get Jenkins to stop yelling 
his way through the picture in which he appears. Other 
of his productions have demonstrated McDonald’s ap- 
preciation of the value of dialogue carried on in ordinary 
conversational tones, so obviously it must have been in 
spite of the director’s desires that Jenkins spoils Dance, 
Charlie, Dance for those who like to keep their nerves 
intact while viewing screen entertainment. In other pic- 
tures his irritating voice ruined his scenes, but in each 
case I attributed it to poor direction. 

In his office Jenkins discusses his business affairs loudly 
enough to be heard throughout the building; in precisely 
the same tone addresses his wife, his partner and his sec- 
retary, until the sound of his voice was about all the im- 
pression I carried away from the preview. If Allen has 
anything else to contribute to the screen, it is high time 
he was trotting it out. 

It is the talkiest talkie we have had in a long time, and 
the efforts of the other players to keep up with Jenkins 
makes the din terrific. I admit, however, that it was 
greeted with much audience laughter, so possibly my ob- 
session for a quieter screen makes me a poor judge of its 
entertainment qualities. Better see it and decide for your- 
self. Stu Erwin is, as always, excellent in his role of a 
smalltown boy, and Jean Muir and Glenda Farrell give 
excellent performances. Charlie Foy also does good work, 
further establishing himself as a capable comedian. 

( 'Reviews by (Paul Jacobs 

Good One from Metro 

THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR, Metro production and release. Di- 
rected by George B. Seitz; screen play by Marion Parsonnet; from 
the play by Bayard Veiller; musical score by David Snell; art di- 
rector, Cedric Gibbons, with associates, Eddie Imazu and Edwin B. 
Willis; photographed by Charles Clarke; film editor, W. Donn 
Hayes; assistant director, Marvin Stuart. Cast: Madge Evans, Lewis 
Stone, Elissa Landi, Thomas Beck, Henry Daniell, Janet Beecher, 
Dame May Whitty, Ralph Forbes, Holmes Herbert, Heather That- 
cher, Charles Trowbridge, Robert Coote, Elsa Buchanan, Lai Chand 
Mehra, Neil Fitzgerald, Louis Vincelot. Running time, 62 minutes. 

S ERIOUS is the word for Metro. No other Hollywood 
studio seems to take the painfully meticulous care 
M.G.M. insists upon for every film which bears its crest. 
The Thirteenth Chair is an excellent example. Having 
chosen the story, a psychological study, Metro set about 


to give us the finest talent their vast resources commands. 
And that is Metro all over. Knowing full well that phases 
of The Thirteenth Chair are not film material, and that 
it can never be popular fare, was no deterent. And so 
this profoundly stirring document of the emotions comes 
to us packed with the pick of filmdom. 

Of primary importance, is the outstanding direction of 
George B. Seitz. Faced with a series of delicately bal- 
anced emotional threads, Mr. Seitz gives us the very last 
drop of entertainment the script affords — and there is 
more than plenty of it. His direction is subtle, never 
melodramatic, never strained, always undulent with the 
easy grace of utter command. “Direction is the picture,” 
and Mr. Seitz is an artist. 

And speaking of artists, I remember the exquisite pho- 
tography of Charles Clarke as one of the highlights in a 
star-glittering array. Mr. Clarke seems to realize the 
significant relationship between mood and setting. An- 
other particularly smooth element in this beautifully bal- 
anced film is the discriminate editing of W. Donn Hayes. 
There is no more important person than the editor. And 
the cutting of The Thirteenth Chair has induced and sus- 
tained the filmic rhythm director Seitz so carefully 
worked out. 

by the way, David Snell’s musical treatment is 
perfect. It must be because I cannot remember having 
heard any music. And therein lies the purpose of film 
music. I can remember only the shifting, swirling turbu- 
lance of emotions that raced through me. The music ful- 
filled its appointed mission — it built, sustained, inferred 
and drew my emotional response. Thus, Mr. Snell’s mu- 
sic is deserving of respectful appreciation. For the life of 
me, I cannot remember a note. 

It seems hardly necessary to add that Bayard Veiller’s 
play has been given magnificent adaptation by Marion 
Parsonnet. Metro has the knack of hiring the best in 
every department. 

And that takes us to the really difficult task. To give 
fair credit to each performance would necessitate another 
hour and a dozen pages. So let me swim through with- 
out pausing. Even among the panoply of perfection, the 
characterization of Dame May Whitty is sharply out- 
standing. It is one of this year’s best, without question. 
Madge Evans brings us the unusual combination of dra- 
matic itelligence, arresting beauty and magnetic person- 
ality. It can’t be beat. 

T 

A HE name Lewis Stone writes its own praises. No one 
actor so consistently hits the peak of entertainment value 
as does Mr. Stone. Elissa Landi again brings the un- 
usual impressiveness that sets its stamp on every film she 
graces. And the boy, Thomas Beck, is grand, striking 
the note of “good egg.” And now for one of my par- 
ticular favorites, Henry Daniell. I have seen him only 
once before, but I shall never forget the sheer perfec- 
tion of his artistry. Mr. Daniell is one of our very best. 
And his job in The Thirteenth Chair again is a master- 
piece. 

Ralph Forbes, handsome and well-bred as usual, turns 
in his expectedly finished work, and Janet Beecher is ex- 
cellent in a difficult role. The rest of the cast, troupers 


Page Fourteen 


May 8, 1937 


all, give The Thirteenth Chair its comprehensive flavor. 
Especially effective are Holmes Herbert, Heather Trow- 
bridge, Robert Coote and Elsa Buchanan. Interesting 
commentary on M.G.M. thoroughness is shown in their 
selection of Lai Chand Mehra, outstanding Hindu phil- 
osopher and professor, to play an outstanding Hindue pro- 
fessor. Metro is like that, thorough. And so is The 
Thirteenth Chair. 

Another O’Brien Opus 

HOLLYWOOD COWBOY, George A. Hirliman production for 
R.K.O. release. Associate producer, Leonard Goldstein; original 
screen play by Dan Jarrett and Ewing Scott; directed by Ewing 
Scott; production manager, Joe Dill; photographed by Frank B. 
Good; supervising editor, Robert Crandall; musical director, Abe 
Meyer; art director, F. Paul Sylos; assistant director, George Sher- 
man; recording by Winston Moore. Cast: George O'Brien, Cecilia 
Parker, Maude Eburne, Joe Caits, Frank Milan, Charles Middleton, 
Lee Shumway, Walter De Palma, Al Hill, William Royle, Al Her- 
man, Frank Hagney, Dan Wolheim, Slim Baulch, Sid Jordan, Lester 
Dorr, Harold Daniels. Running time, 60 minutes. 

HOLLYWOOD'S most engaging man of muscle gives 
*1.. another of his uniformly entertaining performances. 
Not since Tom Mix, has any athlete so consistently held 
the action audience as has George O’Brien. I am a typi- 
cal example. I have my personal and peculiar tastes; I 
am hard to please, my filmic appetite is offensively dis- 
criminate — but I rush, whooping joyfully, at the call to 
review an O’Brien picture. And enter the sacred portals 
with a sigh of always-to-be fulfilled satisfaction. I am 
the typical western fan. And my name is legion. I wish 
producers would get wise to the fact that all the world 
loves a western. 

I had better add immediately that George A. Hiriman 
has my effusive vote of thanks. He has produced many 
westerns and he knows his stuff. It is a relief to know a 
producers who knows his stuff. As usual, he has chosen 
the best to work with him. Don Jarrett and Ewing Scott, 
for example, give us a swell story, about the idolized film 
cowboy who goes western and shows the cow-country 
how cowpunchers should punch their cows. Not con- 
tent with this twist, Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Scott mix in 
cleverly a dash of racketeering, eastern flavor, and a shot 
of aeronautics — all blended to taste and here, by the way, 
is an almost unique condition. The versatile Mr. Scott 
also directed. That a director colloborated on his own 
story is nothing new; but that a director writes a good 
story, or that a writer does a good job of direction is 
news. Mr. Scott knows the rare combination of dramatic 
and cinematic values. He is on the way to the top. 

c 

KJMART editing by Robert Crandall and the vivid 
photographies of Frank B. Good add the extra something 
that marks the difference between a top class B and a low 
C. Cecilia Parker wears her trim riding habit to dis- 
tinct advantage, and her smile, to amazing effect — on 
George. Maude Eburne, grand old trouper, brings us a 
smile — provoking sketch of what the old West can pro- 
duce in hard riding, straight-shooting womanhood. 

On a par with the humor is the fast-paced portrayal 
of Joe Caits. As George’s sour-puss pal he utilizes every 
opportunity with genuine skill and dispatch. In abrupt 


contrast of type, but equally effective, is the artful silli- 
ness of Frank Milan, who foils O’Brien’s vibrant vigor 
with artistic cream-puffiness. Charles Middleton turns 
in his usual dependable and workmanlike job, and Lee 
Shumway, Water De Palma, Al Hill, Wm. Roylo, Frank 
Hagney, in fact all the support, gives us the effortless and 
finished work of the truly competent cast. See it. It’s 
good. 

^Reviews by CAllan Hersholt 

Mr. Winninger’s Cappy Ricks 

THE GO-GETTER, Warners release of Cosmopolitan production. 
Hal B. Wallis, executive producer; Sam Bischoff, associate pro- 
ducer; directed by Busby Berkeley; original story by Peter B. Kyne; 
screen play by Delmer Daves; photographed by Arthur Edeson; 
William Holmes, film editor; Irving Rapper, dialogue director; 
gowns by Orry-Kelly; musical direction by Leo F. Forbstein; assist- 
ant director, Russ Saunders. Cast: George Brent, Anita Louise, 
Charles Winninger, John Eldredge, Henry O'Neill, Joseph Crehan, 
Gordon Oliver, Eddie Acuff, Willard Robertson, Herbert Rawlin- 
son, Pierre Watkin, Helen Valkis, Helen Lowell, Harry Beresford, 
Minerva Urecal, Mary Treen, Edward Price, Ed Gargan, George 
Humbert. Running time, 92 minutes. 

C HARLES WINNINGER, for years one of the stage’s 
outstanding comics, contributes much toward making 
this comprehensively mounted picture a lively one that 
undoubtedly will please audiences seeking light diversion. 
The Winninger characterization of Cappy Ricks surely 
moves him into the first rank of screen personalities, his 
work and the manner in which it was received by wit- 
nesses giving the firm conviction that to him will come 
significant film stardom. And while this player is largely 
responsible for the success achieved by Go-Getter, his 
performance has a flaw that is of more than minor im- 
portance. He delivers not a small quantity of his num- 
erous speeches in a tone seemingly loud enough to be 
heard by a completely deaf person. Which brings into the 
splendid characterization a most unwelcome, jarring air 
of the stage and displays a lack of cinematic wisdom. 
I have viewed Winninger on the screen several times and 
have found such dialogue delivery heretofore foreign to 
his work, so it is only natural that I lay blame to Busby 
Berkeley, director, and Irving Rapper, dialogue director. 

ACT that this plot, done on the screen scores of times 
before, will be recognized by you in the neighborhood of 
reel one, and that you will know what the balance of the 
picture is to bring, does not mean that Go-Getter will not 
hold your undivided interest. You will be genuinely ab- 
sorbed by it — not because of the story, but because of the 
manner in which it is told. Therefore we are presented 
with a good example of the unimportance of story and the 
importance of its telling. 

It is unusual for Busby Berkeley to direct a picture 
that contains no melodious numbers, no musical atmos- 
phere whatever, and his handling of this Cosmopolitan 
production for Warners, aside from the dialogue de- 
livery already mentioned, is splendid, showing him to be 
possessed of a fine sense of humanness, humor and drama. 
He was indeed fortunate to be handed a script written 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


by Delmar Daves, whose work always is highly commen- 
dable. The Go-Getter screen play is one of Daves’ fin- 
est jobs, an intelligently executed piece of writing, rich 
in scintillating humor. 

The cast is a fine one, Anita Louise, George Brent, 
John Eldredge, Henry O’Neill and each of the others 
doing magnificently. Of high order is Arthur Edeson’s 
camera work. 

Praise for Jane 

ANSEL'S HOLIDAY, 20th-Fox picture and release. John Stone, 
associate producer; directed by James Tin ling ; original story and 
screen play by Lynn Root and Frank Fenton; photographed by 
Daniel B. Clark; art direction by Bernard Herzbrun; Nick De Mag- 
gio, film editor; musical direction by Samuel Kaylin; song, THEY 
BLEW THEMSELVES OUT OF BREATH, by Harold Howard and 
Bill Telaak. Cast: Jane Withers, Robert Kent, Joan Davis, Sally 
Blane, Harold Huber, Frank Jenks, Ray Walker, John Qualen, Lon 
Chaney, Jr., Al Lydell, Russell Hopton, Paul Hurst, John Kelly, 
George Taylor, Cy Kendall, Charles Arnt. Running time, 75 mins. 

F the preview spectator’s reaction is any criterion, this 

almost utterly unbelievable photoplay, tomfoolery of 
the broadest kind, will be relished by many, particularly 
adolescents. At its showing, the theatre was well sprinkl- 
ed with youthful beholders, and they greeted much of it 
in a tumultuously approving fashion, often giving vent 
to loud, forceful laughter, and virgorously applauding 
and shouting. Elders present were not so expressive in 
their response, but appeared to be enjoying themselves. 

Logic plays a very minor part in Angel's Holiday , 
and I suggest that you do not patronize the picture if you 
feel yourself unable to find satisfaction in an hour of 
quite insane entertainment, in humor with a decided Sen- 
nett flavor. Obviously fabricated at little expense, the 
offering seems altogether capable of single-handedly car- 

If Pictures Had Started 

(The sixth of a series of special articles by the Editor on 
the theory and practice of motion picture production.) 

MOTION picture’s embrace of an audience widens 
in the degree it eliminates the intellect as a factor in 
its enjoyment. I have urged so often in my writings that 
the cinema is emotional, not intellectual, diversion, I 
have been interpreted as rating it as entertainment for 
morons only. For every Great Mind to be found in a 
film studio there are a few million outside who can keep 
ahead of him on any intellectual path he chooses to take. 
The screen’s instant capture of the public fancy was due, 
not to lack of intellectual attainment in its creations, but 
to its power to present dramatic entertainment in a man- 
ner which did not require the cooperation of the intel- 
lect in its enjoyment, its appeal being direct to the emo- 
tions through the visual sense. I wrote in a previous Spec- 
tator that the fact of our possession of intellects is not 
a reason for our exercising them in a film theatre, as our 
possession of legs is not a reason for our running up and 
down the aisle while we are viewing a screen offering. 
Our minds rested before a silent screen as our bodies 
rested in the seats the theatre provided, thus it was the 


rying a program where audiences are not difficult to 
please. Sophisticated spectators are expected to frown 
upon it. 

c 

KJUPERIOR to any recent Jane Withers feature, its 
craziness at times creditable with being somewhat adroit, 
it discloses scripting that is both good and inadequate, 
former sort the more evident, and it presents a generally 
excellent piece of direction, successful portrayals and im- 
pressive photography. Frank Fenton and Lynn Root 
have supplied little Jane Withers with some far too 
stilted speeches, the kind one would expect an Oxford 
professor to deliver, and frequently the child tops such 
a piece of dialogue with childish grammatical errors. 
There is no point to this and surely no humor in it. 

Found in the wealth of comedy are some situations of 
utter and disheartening conventionality, well accepted by 
the previewers. Much of the picture is too loud, dialogue 
being shouted, for which I blame the director, James 
Tinling, whose work otherwise is faultless. An above- 
average perception of comedy values is evident in his 
brisk direction. 

Angel's Holiday gives us the talented Jane Withers 
at her best. The lengthy and enthusiastic response which 
the audience awarded her farcical interpretation of a 
musical number was well deserved. Throughout she per- 
forms cleverly. Robert Kent contributes his customary 
stiff and lifeless performance, while Sally Blane, cast op- 
posite him, is charming and fully convincing. Frank 
Jenks, given his best opportunity to date, does superbly, 
and notably good are Harold Huber, Joan Davis, Ray 
Walker, Al Lydell, Paul Hurst, John Qualen and Rus- 
sell Hopton. 

as Talkies 

lack of necessity for the exercise of our intellects when 
presented with basically intellectual entertainment, which 
gave the medium universal appeal and brought it an 
audience composed of all degrees of intelligence. 

Hugo Munsterberg over twenty years ago in his The 
Photoplay : A Psychological Study, divided the functions 
of the picture audience mind into the processes of atten- 
tion, of imagination, of suggestion, of division of interest 
and of emotion. No matter how underdeveloped any 
intellect in an audience may be, it is capable of function- 
ing as completely within the limits of its development as 
can the most highly developed intellect. But let us ex- 
amine the form a motion picture takes to rid the intel- 
lect of the necessity for objective functioning. 

T 

M HE mission of Art is to interpret nature, not to re- 
create it. We will segregate a fragment of real life, pre- 
sent it as such, and then outline the cinema’s process of 
recreating it to reduce to a minimum its demand for our 
intellectual cooperation. 

As A leaves his offices building his attention is attract- 
ed to a commotion in the street. He wonders what is 



Page Sixteen 


May 8, 1937 


happening; looks in each direction; sees a crowd at a cor- 
ner; pushes his way through it with the help of a police 
officer who salutes him. On the pavement is stretched 
the body of a man, above him stands a policeman who 
with one hand clutches the arm of a man (B), in his 
other hand a revolver. A is puzzled, somewhat disturbed, 
when he sees B. Where has he seen him before? Mem- 
ory stirs. In Paris? In Moscow? In the South Seas? 
He has it — Hong Kong — that night when B saved him 
from arrest — and now B, the only person who could 
strip him of his mask of respectability, stands in front of 
him, apparently a murderer. He imagines the possibili- 
ties of B’s recognition of him — his own arrest, imprison- 
ment; but, still — B once helped him. Should he now do 
something to help B ? On one side A has peace, happi- 
ness, respectability; on the other, disgrace, and poverty 
if he is to make restitution of the proceeds of his crime. 
A police car arrives, B, his eyes still downcast, is thrust 
into it; it drives off. A looks after it, squares his should- 
ders, takes a few steps in the direction it took; stops, 
turns, with drooping shoulders, walks in the opposite 
direction. 

A/ 

I* OlV we are sitting in the audience viewing the above 
sequence of events being presented on the screen without 
the aid of dialogue. Our attention is caught by A’s start 
of attention as he reaches the sidewalk. Our memory is 
stirred by his as we go back with him over his travels; 
we remember the Eiffel Tower means Paris, the Kremlin 
means Moscow, as the screen pictorially keeps abreast 
of A’s thoughts. Our imagination makes us see things 
through A’s eyes. There is suggestion of A’s importance 
in the officers’s salute, a suggestion of the height from 
which he will fall if B tells what he knows. There is 
division of interest — will he save himself or risk losing 
himself if he aids B? The sequence abounds in emotion. 

In a book, an author could enthral us with his word 
picture of the situation in which A finds himself; could 
carry us back on a journey of literary delight to the dark 
days of A’s adventures, but it would be purely intellect- 
ual entertainment; we would know A and B were crea- 
tures of the author’s brain, that they had no existence 
outside the covers of the book. 

By no possibility could the sequence as we see it be 
presented on the stage. Its story values could be recited 
in dialogue by people playing parts, which, again, would 
be purely intellectual diversion. No painter could put it 
on a canvas, no sculptor carve it in marble. 


it being determined by the use to which his imagination 
puts what is presented to his eyes. He sees a fragment of 
real life, two-dimensional images which his imagination 
makes plastic, images of people to whom he ascribes the 
emotions which are stirring him. It is the customer who 
gives the merchandise the quality which makes it readily 
saleable. 

Automobile manufacturers strive to stimulate their 
market by some slight change in design or the addition 
of some device to make a car’s interior more inviting, 
but they do not take liberties with the fundamental mech- 
anical principles which make it possible for the car to 
go. Airplanes are of various designs, are made for vari- 
ous uses, constantly are trying out new ideas, but the one 
thing never tampered with is the principle which keeps 
them in the air. The quality which made motion pictures 
go, which maintain them, is the one thing which 
should have come through the sound revolution unmarred 
and untouched. Instead, however, it was thrown out 
bodily. Its appeal was changed from emotional to intel- 
lectual. 

Relaxation is the merchandise the screen industry has 
for sale. In the silent era the business was good because 
the nature of the merchandise enabled the customer to 
get in full measure what he was buying. Every visit to 
a film theatre provided him with complete relaxation, 
consequently time and money were the only determining 
factors in regulating the number of his visits. He could 
not very well grow tired of a form of entertainment 
which did not tire him. With the advent of talkies came 
a change in the nature of the product which added satura- 
tion to time and money as considerations affecting the 
regularity of attendance. The relaxing qualities of the 
product were eliminated. 

In the previous Spectator a formula was outlined for 
the presentation of the cinematic value of screen produc- 
tions despite the inclusion of the alien element of audible 
dialogue. It was argued then that no fault could be 
found with the use of the spoken word as an effective 
agency in expediting the telling of stories, that making 
the manufacturing process difficult by striving for cine- 
matic perfection was unwise when the market would be 
satisfied with something less. At the same time it was 
admitted that talkies have a legitimate place in screen 
entertainment. As they have no place in screen art, our 
consideration of them as items of entertainment will have 
to be based on their status as articles of commerce. 


HEN we in the audience view the sequence on the 
screen, we see neither people from a book nor people 
playing parts; we hear no explanations, have no mental 
problems. The conflict of emotions, the reason for them, 
the antecedent incidents which affect the present situa- 
tions, all are woven into a single pattern which we ab- 
sorb completely without objective mental effort. It is 
a visual message direct to our emotions and without 
pause for intellectual analysis. Each of us gets out of 
it — not what is put into it at its source — but what he 
puts into it; the degree of entertainment he derives from 


The main asset of any paying business is its stability, 
the even inward flow of earnings and the steadiness of 
operating expenses. Such conditions can result only from 
continuous selling in a stable market — from the public’s 
habit of consuming the product offered it. The great- 
est asset the film industry can acquire is the public’s 
habit of attending picture theatres. When pictures were 
silent the habit was a fixed one. It made little difference 
what was showing on the screen, box-office receipts not 
varying greatly from week to week. Of course, when 
Mary Pickford, Valentino, Charlie Chaplin or some other 
star of outstanding popularity came along, receipts de- 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seventeen 


scribed an upward curve, but on the whole, business was 
steady and when a year started the exhibitor could guess 
pretty closely how he would stand financially when it 
ended. 

Only since we have had talkies have there been wide 
fluctuations in box-office receipts. The business of ex- 
hibiting motion pictures has ceased to be stable. It does 
make a difference now what picture is showing. The ex- 
hibitor no longer can estimate in advance what his year’s 
receipts will be, and while he optimistically awaits the 
advent of a miracle of some sort, he considers himself 
lucky if at the end of his fiscal year his books come within 
reasonable distance of balancing, Responsible for such 
conditions is the fact that the public now shops for its 
screen entertainment and no longer patronizes it as a 
habit. And the blame for the cessation of the habit be- 
longs to the makers of the screen entertainment the public 
is getting. 

D 

iJEFORE we determine the ligitimate place of the talkie 
in the program of screen entertainment, let us embark 
upon an adventure into supposition ; let us for a moment 
forget motion pictures and consider how I light my pipe. 
At home I light it with a globular lighter about the size 
of a baseball. In my pocket I carry a smaller, flat one. 
I have to keep them supplied with fuel, flints and wicks. 
Let us suppose man never perfected lighting beyond the 
flint stage, had never discovered friction would cause fire, 
that the present mechanical system of lighting is the only 
one of which we have knowledge. A man, we will sup- 
pose, comes into my garden where I am writing now and 
finds me working my lighter to get my pipe going. He 
displays a little cardboard folder with a flap on it and a 
double column of readheaded uprights in it. 

“Why do you monkey with that contraption?’’ he asks, 
referring to my lighter. “As often as not it refuses to 
work; you have to attend to it regularly or it won’t work 
at all. Now this little jigger always works. These things 
are called matches. You tear off one like this, scratch it 
so — and there’s the light for your pipe! You blow it out, 
throw it away, and that is all there is to it.” 

What would I do? I am quite sure I would throw 
away my mechanical lighters with their fluid tanks, flints 
and wicks, and adopt the more modern and greatly simpli- 
fied method of lighting my pipe. Matches, I would con- 
clude, marked an advance in man’s ingenuity, and my 
desire would be to keep up with the times. I am too old 
to relish being thought old-fashioned. 

N 

»" OW let us suppose motion pictures started as talkies, 
that they never had been silent, always had told their 
stories in dialogue, always had been intellectual diver- 
sion, never had relied upon the camera to furnish visual 
entertainment which allowed the intellect to relax while 
only the emotions were exercised; and suppose, instead 
of writing this, I am finishing the last scene of a picture 
which I, as a producer instead of an editor, am about to 
make into a talkie. Suppose another man comes into my 
garden, manipulates my cumbersome lighter and starts 
his pipe. 


‘“Are you aware you are a consummate ass?” he asks 
by way of a friendly opening. “You and your fellow 
producers are turning out screen entertainment whose na- 
ture places a definite limit on its market. People seek 
entertainment for its relaxing quality, to give their minds 
a rest. You are giving them entertainment which exercises 
their minds,” and he goes on to advance a lot of other 
arguments already presented in preceding articles in 
this Spectator series. 

“Now,” he goes on, “I have thought of something new 
in the way of picture production, something which should 
double your market by taking in the children and all 
those who are looking for mental rest instead of the men- 
tal stimulation you now provide them — a kind of enter- 
tainment which will hold its present market and give it 
greater satisfaction than it is enjoying now. It is a sim- 
ple process and if you were not entirely ignorant of the 
kind of business you are in, if you knew its potentiali- 
ties — in short, if you were not a damned fool, you’d have 
thought of it yourself.” 


Ifi Y visitor goes on: “The whole idea is to make your 
entertainment visual — to aim it at the eyes and the emo- 
tions, not at the ears and the intellects, as you are doing 
now. Stop making your stories literal. Give your audi- 
ence suggestions and allow it to write its own stories; 
let each imagination see in the story what pleases it most, 
and let it fashion for itself the kind of entertainment 
which pleases it most. Don’t let it hear a single speech not 
essential to its understanding of the story. Cut out the 
good-morning-Mr. Smiths and all the other silly speeches 
your audience has to listen to for fear it will miss some- 
thing essential to the scene. It is all a question of camera 
technique, of having your camera move forward and back- 
ward, of bringing the characters close enough to the audi- 
ence to enable it to hear the absolutely essential speeches, 
and keeping it at a distance to make it reasonable that it 
would not hear non-essential jabbering. 

“What crowd are you after, the one composed of peo- 
ple who use their minds in their work and want enter- 
tainment which will rest them, or the one composed of 
people who do not use their minds at their work and wel- 
come mental exercise at night? The first crowd so vastly 
outnumbers the second that if you have any business 
brains you will go after it. You can satisfy it without 
dissatisfying the other. There are plenty of screen crafts- 
men who can put box-ofEce value in your product if you 
will keep your own hands off and let them do it.” 

HA T would I do ? I would follow my visitor’s ad- 
vice. I would think I was stealing a march on other pro- 
ducers by starting a revoltion in picture production, in- 
troducing something new, which would increase the box- 
office value of my pictures. Soon all the other producers 
would adopt the new technique and the film industry as 
a whole would enjoy a prosperity never known to it pre- 
viously. The new product would be so easy of assimila- 
tion the public soon would fall into the habit of attend- 
ing film theatres irrespective of what was showing. The 
man whose desire for entertainment is satisfied now by 


Page Eighteen 


May 8, 1937 


one talkie a week, would contract the habit of taking in 
two or three motion pictures. 

Then, you well may ask, why do producers now per- 
sist in making talkies, which limit their market, instead 
of motion pictures, which would enlarge it? The answer 
is an interesting study in psychology. Screen art is over- 
whelmed by the magnitude of the film industry. The fi- 
nancial aspect of screen entertainment production is so 
predominant, the heads of the producing organizations 
of necessity must be businessmen. Business management 
and artistic achievement rarely are bedded in the same 
brain. There are screen artists who have business sense, 
but as the art to them is more absorbing than the business, 
fashioning art creations more fascinating than making 
money, they are content to let others control the finances. 
But the great majority of screen artists are not business- 
men. They are craftsmen to whom their art appeals more 
strongly than the financial return it yields. Without 
knowledge of business methods, without inclination to 
learn them, the film industry would not get far as an in- 
dustry if they controlled its destinies. 

STRUCTURALLY , no fault can be found with the 
picture organization as a whole. Its weakness lies in its 
operation. The business men who control it are not con- 
tent merely to conduct its business. They control the ex- 
penditure of vast sums of money, have under their com- 
mand great armies of employes. Most of them were 
raised to their present heights by the lifting power of the 
industry which grew up under them — not by virtue of 
their efforts, but by the sheer strength of the screen as 
an entertainment medium. Being human, and their sense 
of relative values being benumbed somewhat by contem- 
plation of their power and their accidental importance, 
it is natural they should regard themselves as authorities 
on the process of manufacture of their product, should 
deem themselves as capable of determining how a picture 
should be made as they are of deciding how it should be 
sold. 

These men have decided pure cinema technique is old 
fashioned, just as the mechanical lighter addict decides 
matches are old fashioned. The fact that all lighters do 
not work and all matches do — that all talkies do not 
make money and all silent pictures did — is outside the 
range of the film producer’s reasoning. His annual earn- 
ings are so great they have hypnotized him into the belief 
he can give value for them even without thinking. He 
dictates to picture artists, but knows nothing of the art; 
and his business intelligence has not been developed to the 
point of realization that it is the degree in which film art 
is reflected in film entertainment which must determine the 
financial fate of the industry. He pays absurdly large 
salaries for picture brains, but will not permit the brains 
to function beyond the limits of his own cinematic con- 
victions. It is a case of businessmen controlling an art and 
not knowing enough about the business to let the art alone. 

HE case of Sonja Henie is an interesting demonstra- 
tion of production psychology which has been demonstra- 
ted in hundreds of other cases, all of which its recital 


will illuminate. This attractive young girl who has de- 
veloped figure skating into high art, had charmed audi- 
ences in world capitals before anyone thought of her pos- 
sibilities as a screen attraction. Finally, however, some- 
one realized them and she was presented in One in a 
Million. In scenes preceding her appearance on the ice, 
Sonja is revealed as a charming girl, one to earn the in- 
stant affection of the audience. Possessed of that beauty 
which charm of personality makes irregularity of features 
unimportant, a warmly sympathetic speaking voice and 
a fascinating smile, she could have gained favor without 
displaying her skating skill. 

So cleverly has she been presented in these opening 
scenes, she is not to us just a professional skater when 
she takes the ice. She is our friend, a nice girl we know, 
one in whose affairs we have become interested, who 
has our sympathy and well wishes. When she enters the 
Olympic contest our desire to see her, our friend, win 
the award is greater than our desire to witness a skating 
performance. When her amazing grace, the rhythm of 
her movements, the lilting poetry composed by her sway- 
ing form, are revealed to us, it is the fact our friend is 
making good which appeals more powerful to our emo- 
tions than they would react solely to the esthetic charms 
of her effortless mastery of her art. One in a Million 
was a box-office success. A well made picture with an 
interesting story and a strong cast, still most of the credit 
must go to Sonja Henie, and her portion of it can be 
divided equally between the charm of her personality and 
her skill as a skater. 

HE success of Sonja’s picture immediately sent pro- 
ducers scurrying for other figure skaters to appear on the 
screen. Several films featuring ice skating were given a 
place on the season’s production programs. The other day 
I sat in the office of the head of one of the largest pro- 
ducing organizations and listened while he explained why 
these pictures were being made. Audience desire in the 
way of screen entertainment, he stated, runs in cycles — 
today it wants one thing, tomorrow another. Two years 
ago he would not have made a skating picture. The pub- 
lic was not ready for it. Today the public is skating con- 
scious, and until its fancy veers to something else — until 
the advent of another cycle which the astute producer in 
some mysterious way can sense in advance — skating will 
be provided it in a series of pictures. 

“An important part of my duties,” my friend con- 
cluded, “is to see that my organization keeps abreast of 
public taste.” 

OtV the surface, plausible reasoning; but let us analyze 
it. Is it only today that you have acquired a taste for the 
poetry of motion, for the esthetic allurement of a charm- 
ing young woman’s amazing grace, for the rhythmic 
agility with which she flashes from one intricate figure to 
another? Is some mysterious cycle responsible for the en- 
joyment Sonja Henie’s skill gave you? Would you not 
have enjoyed it equally two years ago, a dozen years ago? 
No, says the film industry, two years ago your esthetic de- 
mands were for something else. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nineteen 


Prior to the incident of the apple, the graceful swaying 
in the breeze of the blossomed branches of the apple tree, 
the rhythmic murmuring of a brook as it curved gently 
around a bend, the artistic lines which nature draws, 
must have played their parts in making Adam and Eve 
enjoy the esthetic pleasures the Garden of Eden afforded 
them. And what of the ballet? When did it start? Cer- 
tainly not in the past two years. The fact is that the 
poetry of motion was the earliest manifestation of man’s 
appreciaion of the esthetic, was the first step in his es- 
thetic development. Sonja Henie’s skating would have 
delighted Adam and Eve and all their descendants from 
them until now. That, of course, makes it too old-fash- 
ioned for recognition by motion picture producers, who 
deem even motion picture art too old-fashioned to be 
given a place in motion picture creations. 

(By way of explanation, I would like to add a personal 
note here. These articles are not charted ; I am not writ- 
ing from notes, not following a plan. I merely am ex- 
ploring mentally the motion picture situation as I see it 
and setting down my thoughts in the order in which 
they crowd into my mind. A few thousand words back 
I stated the goal of the foregoing article to be the placing 
of the talkie where it belongs in the screen entertainment 
program. I had the goal before me as I wrote and what 
I have written has brought me closer to it, but I had no 
idea so many words would strew the path to its attain- 
ment. I hope to reach it in the next article, but I make 
no promises.) 


Leave Them Alone 

F ILM WEEKLY , an outstanding English publication, 
may be relied upon in each issue to express some 
thoughts which have application to picture production in 
general. Under the above heading, it has this to say: 

When will Hollywood learn that it doesn’t pay to try to turn 
character actors into stars? 

In two weeks the West End has been given three examples 
of the deplorable waste of time, thought and talent which re- 
sults from attempting to concoct starring vehicles for character 
actors. Last week there were Edward Arnold in John Meade's 
Woman and Charlie Ruggles in Mind Your Own Business. 
This week brings Victor McLaglen in Sea Devils. All three are 
excellent actors, strongly individual types; the kind of players 
who are a tremendous asset to any film in which they appear 
in good supporting roles. These pictures will not do any of 
them any good. None of the three was ever meant to be a 


Sidney Blackmer 

20th Century-Fox 



star, and the process of trying to retain the precarious stardom 
which has been thrust upon them entails compromises and re- 
strictions which are contrary to all the proved principles of 
picture-making. 

To begin with, pictures are expected to have a love interest. 
On the other hand, filmgoers do not take easily to the spectacle 
of a middle-aged, unromantic-looking hero. Usually, therefore, 
pictures which star such a player have to divide interest arti- 
ficially between the central character and a subsidiary love- 
interest. Then, a character actor’s appeal is based not only 
upon personality but on a specific characterization. This means 
that a formula has to be evolved which is even more arbitrary 
than those devised for glamour stars, and becomes even more 
quickly stereotyped. 

Edward Arnold has become permanently the ruthless busi- 
ness-man who loves and loses. The familiar Ruggles charac- 
terization, lovably dithering and inefficient, grows weaker and 
staler with each successive domestic comedy. For McLaglen 
every starring subject has to be distorted to provide for the 
Sergeant Flagg character which he created in the silent era. 
None of them shines nearly so consistently as in supporting 
roles. Arnold has never seemed so securely established since 
he became a star. Ruggles was infinitely more refreshing as 
one of a team in Ruggles of Red Gap, or as comic relief in 
Lubitsch musicals. The only legitimate star part McLaglen has 
had in recent years was in The Informer, which was an un- 
repeatable freak film. 

Only such freak films do afford leading parts for middle- 
aged actors. This is why Film W eekly has always urged that 
the only sane policy for character players is to star on the rare 
occasions when such films offer themselves and otherwise to 
remain in their proper place in supportng roles. Few character 
players have maintained stardom for long. Marie Dressier was 
a notable exception — but she died before her popularity could 
fade. Character players are just as important to a picture as 
its stars. But they can only be really valuable in their own 
supporting sphere. 


Adele Buffington 

"Michael O'Halloran" 

Screen Play 
In Preparation 

"She Didn't Want a Sheik" 

REPUBLIC PICTURES 


Do You Like 

GOOD FOOD — GOOD BEDS 
AND ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME? 
Then Stop at the 

SANTA MARIA INN 

SANTA MARIA, CALIFORNIA 

Frank J. McCoy, Manager 

174 miles from Los Angeles — 271 miles from San Francisco 
On Highway 101 



Page Twenty 


Hollywood Spectator 


May 8, 1937 


Waldemar 

Young 


Now 

Writing 

for 

Metro-Goldwyn- 

Mayer 


ALBERT 

LEWIS 

PRODUCED 

The 

Woman I Love 

STARRING 

Paul Muni 

and 

Miriam Hopkins 
FOR R-K'O RADIO 


dtoltipjODOd CENTS 

SPECTATOR 

Twelfth Year Edited by WELFORD BEATON 

Number 4 MAY 22, 1937 Volume 12 

Quild’s Qreat Opportunity 
Admissions and Picture Costs 
Intelligent Use of Dialogue 
Sound’s Place on the Screen 

Editor’s Easy Chair . . . Other Comment 

Analytical Reviews 

THIS IS MY AFFAIR * THEY GAVE HIM A GUN * THE GIRL SAID NO 
HOTEL HAYWIRE * MICHAEL O'HALLORAN * SLIM * NIGHT OF MYSTERY 
WINGS OVER HONOLULU * REVOLUTIONISTS 


THE SCREEN INDUSTRY CAN SERVE ITSELF BEST BY SERVING SCREEN ART MORE 


Page Two 


May 22, 1937 


MAKE 

A 

CHILD 

YOUR 

BREAKFAST 

QUEST 

t 


CHILDRENS 
BREAKFAST CLUB 

Room 213 

6331 Hollywood Boulevard 


THIS SPACE CONTRIBUTED 
BY A FRIEND OF 
HUNGRY CHILDREN 


DELMER 

DAVEr 


Screen Play 
THE GO-GETTER” 

The director was indeed fortunate 
to be handed a script written by 
Delmer Daves, whose work al- 
ways is highly commendable. The 
Go-Getter screen play is one of 
Daves’ finest jobs, an intelligently 
executed piece of writing,, rich in 
scintillating humor. 

— Hollywood Spectator 


& 

Compliments of 

WALTER 

HUSTON 

NOW IN 
HOLLYWOOD 

IS 


Hollywood Spectator 


' * U ** 1 


Page Three 



From the 




]Editor > 




ACCEPTING the chatter column’s word for the fact 
/i of the journey and its purpose, Joan Bennett is go- 
ing to do a summer season of stock with a theatrical com- 
pany somewhere in the East. Her stage-manager will 
weep when he sees the way she walks, sits down, rises; 
he will weep more tears when she reads a line. He is 
going to call picture patrons hopeless low-brows for lov- 
ing the way Joan does all these things on the screen. 
He’ll show Hollywood! He will send our little Joan 
back to us with the finger marks of the stage tarnishing 
the polish which has made her shine on the screen. From 
one of the most natural players appearing in pictures, 
she will be made into just another stage actress who will 
interpret screen roles in terms of the theatre — that is, 
all this will happen to her if she goes through with her 
announced intention. Ever since the fascinating per- 
sonality of Joan first enlivened the screen, I have been 
one of her most devoted admirers, and as I write I lift 
my eyes to her autographed photograph upon which above 
her name is enscribed her appreciation of the nice things 
I have written about her picture performances. I still 
am loyal to her as a screen actress, and to prove it I 
herewith express the hope that she turns out to be the 
most godawful flop on the stage and that she comes back 
to us chastened to the point of realization that she belongs 
wholly to the screen. 

* * * 

A T the recent convention of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 
/I salesmen Louis B. Mayer made the statement that 
theatre admission prices would have to be raised to keep 
pace with the constant increase in the cost of picture 
production. For the company, he promised that the in- 
creased revenue would not go to the stockholders as di- 
vidends, but would be devoted to the making of bigger 
and better pictures. In the previous Spectator I re- 
marked that “the natural evolution of the million-dollar 
picture of today is the five-million-dollar picture of to- 
morrow.” Apparently Metro is starting out to prove 
me a good prophet. 

No one can quarrel with the film industry for looking 
forward in search of variety in its pictures, but it cer- 
tainly is open to censor for not looking backward for 
guidance by experience. In every line of human endeavor 
it is the road already traveled which points the direction 
it is wise to take as the journey continues. If our present 
producers were capable of learning anything, they would 
realize the folly of endeavoring to hold their present 
market by spending more money on their product. The 


s Easy Chair 


public is not complaining that the screen entertainment 
it is getting now does not cost enough at its source. To 
make it more expensive at its outlet and apply the extra 
revenue merely to making more extravagant the features 
in it which the public now is not making profitable, is 
a sad exhibition of a lack of ordinary business sense. 

HAT ails the present product is the fundamental 
error it commits in endeavoring to stupefy the public 
instead of entertaining it. More money would make it 
more stupefying and less entertaining. It was the sim- 
plicity of the screen’s expression which built the founda- 
tion upon which the film industry rests, and now the 
foundation is being imperiled by the weight of stupidity 
it is being asked to bear, a weight producers are seeking 
means to increase. Raising admission prices will not add 
to the industry’s revenue. It merely will add to the num- 
ber of possible patrons who do not patronize pictures 
now. Hollywood’s hope of future prosperity lies in its re- 
turn to past simplicity, in a policy of selling heart-throbs 
instead of spectacles and personalities instead of actors. 
It will be a long haul to get back to first principles. The 
public is not analytical; it does not know why it is los- 
ing interest in the screen entertainment it is getting. It 
probably would resent an abrupt change in fare from ela- 
borate spectacle to simple emotions, but in the long run 
emotions will bring in two dollars to every one the spec- 
tacles are bringing in now. But it is inevitable there 
will have to be a change of policy to save the industry 
some rough going. If I were embarking on a career as 
a producer I would rather have a young girl with per- 
sonality, and Buck, the big St. Bernard dog, than the 
two greatest artists the stage ever developed. 

Hollywood is prone to regard the whole industry 
as prosperous because production activity is great and 
much money is being spent here. But the people who 
make pictures cannot enjoy permanent prosperity until 
those who exhibit the pictures also are prosperous. The- 
atre-owners throughout the country are disturbed and 
salesmen of the producing companies are not finding 
their work as easy as in former selling seasons. The pro- 
ducers’ efforts to pass the expense buck to exhibitors in 
the way of increased rentals is not meeting with com- 
plete success. Allied States, an organization of indepen- 
dent theatre-owners, has been making a survey of the 
sales situation. So far it has enough information to give 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published every second Saturday in Hollywood, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, 
president; Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars 
the year; two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies 20 cents. Advertising rates on application. 


Page Four 


May 22, 1937 


just a cross-section view, but it is illuminating. The 
statement reads: “Early returns from Allied’s buying 
survey indicate that the independent exhibitors are not 
rushing to sign up at the high rentals asked for 1937-38 
deals. Of 170 theatres scattered from Maine to Cali- 
fornia and from Minnesota to Texas, only thirteen have 
contracted for product approximating their requirements 
for the ensuing year. Fourteen theatres have signed up 
with one company each, and twenty-three have signed up 
for two or three companies each. One hundred and 
twenty of the reporting theatres have bought no product 
of any kind.” Harrison’s Reports, after publishing the 
above, adds this paragraph : “The same tendency seems 
to prevail in this territory — abstention from buying ear- 
ly, for the exhibitors have found out from experience 
that, when the season gets well under way, they are able 
to get a better idea what each producer is going to offer. 
Consequently they are in a better position to know what 
it is worth.” It is obvious exhibitors have devolped a 
“show-me” complex, and it is getting increasingly diffi- 
cult for producers to show them. It is a situation which 
would give pause to an industry endowed with ability to 
think in terms of the fundamentals of its business. Only 
the film industry is capable of trying to improve its fi- 
nancial situation by making its product worse and charg- 
ing more for it. 

* * * 

O NE thing Darryl Zanuck might claim in defense of 
his action in putting Gypsy Lee on the screen, is that 
undressing on the stage is just as good training for a 
screen career as acting on the stage is. 

* * * 

ENTAL Meanderings: The papers were filled with it, 

but 1 didn’t seem able to get bet up over the corona- 
tion. . . . The producer said to the two writers who dis- 
agreed in a story conference, “Come, come, boys; don’t 
be like the dog in the manger — always quarrelling among 
yourselves. ’ . . . I o my way of thinking, the peak of bad 
taste is for two people to take a kissing pose for a news- 
paper photograph, and it is just as bad taste for a news- 
paper to publish such stuff. . . . One of the finest speak- 
ing voices in pictures is that of Vernon Steele, whom we 
see on the screen too seldom. . . . Same producer broke 
up a squabble between same two collaborators at another 
story conference by stating emphatically that it was time 
he was taking the white elephant by the horns. . . . 
Seventh Heaven is the strangest jumble of foreign accents 
any picture has had. . . . Terrific excitement around the 
old homestead this morning; Sophie, the sanguine duck 
who has been sitting on three wild duck eggs for weeks, 
brought forth a wild ducklet, much to the astonishment 
of Bo Peep, the Peke, and to the total indifference of 
Phoebe, the spaniel, who seems to regard it as just an- 
other of those things. . . . Huntly Gordon on the golf 
links. Why can’t we see him on the screen? There are 
a lot of people who would welcome his appearance. ... A 
hunk of ice cream hidden under a mess of crushed straw- 
berries will suit me any time in the way of dessert. . . . 
Heard H. M. Robertson on the radio advising dog own- 
ers to get rid of spear grass in their gardens as the spears 
play the devil with dog’s feet, ears and nostrils; for the 


past hour I’ve been humping around the ground on my 
sitdowner, digging up the infernal stuff. Had difficulty 
in straightening up again. Is radio really necessary?... 
When those friends who chided me for rooting and vot- 
ing for Landon get through paying Roosevelt taxes, they 
might drop in and apologize. But the second Roosevelt 
administration will have one accomplishment to its credit: 
It will prove Vermont and Maine were right. . . . Apart- 
ment dwellers had better skip this one: I’ve just come in 
from cutting an armful of Talisman roses — nuggets of 
pure gold on stems a foot-and-a-half long. 

* * * 

S OME issues ago the Spectator protested against the 
.inclusion in pictures of so many drinking scenes which 
had no direct bearing on the stories. Such scenes are be- 
ginning to provoke other protests. For instance, the Eve- 
ning Recorder (Amsterdam, N. Y. ), as illuminating a 
medium of expression of average American sentiment as 
one could select, has this to say editorially under the 
heading, “Getting Drink-Minded:” “Are motion picture 
producers becoming drink-minded? The prevalence of 
drinking scenes in present-day films appears to indicate 
that such is the case. A large percentage of the pictures 
released within the last few months feature drinking 
scenes. Mickey Mouse and Popeye are about the only 
film characters who have not been depicted on the screen 
with a highball in their hand or suffering from the effects 
of over indulgence in the cup that cheers. Certainly it 
cannot be argued that drinking scenes are essential to the 
success of the films. Some of the pictures which are ad- 
mitted to have returned the largest profits were entirely 
free from them. Possibly producers will argue that the 
pictures are made true to life, that people are drinking 
more, and consequently screen productions, to be an ac- 
curate reproduction of the activities of the individuals 
which they are supposed to depict, must follow the trend 
of the times. There are many who believe that it would 
be advisable to places less stress upon accuracy in so far 
as stage drinking is concerned. The producers have not 
hesitated to present distorted versions of books from which 
their plays are adapted. If they can forego accuracy in 
this respect, why is accuracy so essential in regard to 
drinking?” 

* * * 

S OME pertinent remarks are made by the editor of the 
always interesting English publication, Film Weekly: 
“Over ten years ago, the screen’s current ‘epic’ was put 
into the programme of the Tivoli cinema in London. It 
was called Ben-Hur, and it proceeded to write itself a 
page of screen history by drawing crowds of filmgoers to 
the Tivoli for eleven months on end. Next week, Ben- 
Hur will be on show again. It is included in the general 
releases from Monday onwards. Don’t imagine, how- 
ever, that Ben-Hur has now become nothing more than 
a mere museum piece — something in which present-day 
filmgoers will find only a semi-archaeological interest. 
The comparison between this great picture of ten years 
ago and our own pictures of today will not rouse a feel- 
ing of smug complacency. Admittedly, on the story side 
the old films seem so incredibly naive, so lacking in the 
most elementary sense of psychology or characterization, 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Rve 


that it is difficult to believe we once enjoyed them. But 
one aspect of the best of the old films is as fresh and 
vital as ever — their action. The galley-scenes and the 
chariot race in Ben-Hur are still exciting. There is 
something more in them than mere material for an Eddie 
Cantor burlesque. When The Birth of a Nation was re- 
vived in London some two years ago, the use of close-ups 
and the ‘penetrating psychology’ for which D. W. Grif- 
fith became famous, seemed utterly dated and meaningless 
— almost grotesque. But the great race-against-time cli- 
max of the Klu Klux Klan was as vividly thrilling as any 
of the races-against-time that have followed it. Those 
comparatively crude early films had discovered the neces- 
sity for action. That quality still survives in them today. 
Some of our so-subtle modern screenplays could benefit 
even now from their example. There is a lesson to be 
learnt from Ben-Hur — the lesson that action always has, 
and always will be the most important factor in screen 
entertainment.” 

* * * 

O NE day recently my activities, both physical and men- 
tal, had been a little more strenuous than usual. I was 
somewhat tired, but I had to attend a preview and make 
the best of it. The loge seat was comfortable. I fitted 
into it snugly, and had difficulty in remaining alert enough 
mentally to catch all the crisp comedy lines the players 
on the screen tossed back and forth. Two or three times 
I had to ask Mrs. Spectator what the audience was 
laughing at. I was in precisely the same position as the 
tired businessman finds himself after a hard day at the 
office; he wants to fit comfortably into a film theatre seat 
and be both amused and rested. He does not desire a brand 
of entertainment demanding his close attention, some- 
thing he must bring to himself. He wants it brought to 
him with no effort on his part. Silent pictures filled the 
bill for him. Their musical accompaniments soothed his 
tired brain cells and his eyes brought the entertainment 
to him. That is why the silent screen built such a big 
industry in such an astonishingly short time. If film pro- 
duction executives had even half the brains to justify the 
size of the salaries they draw, they would realize that 
rest and relaxation are the biggest paying commodities it 
is possible for them to sell the public, and they would see 
to it that audible dialogue in their productions was 
brought as near as possible to the vanishing point. 
Nothing in the success of the screen as an industry is so 
amazing as the fact that it continues to be a success in 
spite of the ignorance which controls it. In the hands of 
people who understand it, it could earn twice its present 
profits. 

* * * 

HAT appeals to me as an example of astute film- 
theatre advertising appeared in a recent edition of 
the Harvard Crimson, the University’s daily paper. The 
picture advertised was The Green Light; the advertise- 
ment, that of the University Theatre, bearing the head- 
ing: “Hollywood Pre-Viewer Vs. Crimson Movie-Goer,” 
and in parallel columns are extracts from the Spectator's 
review praising the picture and from the Crimson s con- 
demning it. The advertisement displays the question: 


“Here Are Their Opinions — On Which Side Are You?” 
Such exploitation should attract intelligent film patrons 
by making them curious to learn for themselves which 
opinion of the picture’s merits agrees with their own. Ap- 
parently I came through the test all right. In a letter 
accompanying a copy of the advertisement, Seth H. Field, 
assistant manger of the theatre, says: “We are glad to 
report that a great majority of our patrons praised the 
film in question and your reputation remains unstained. 
Box-office receipts were unusually good, too.” Mr. Field 
also reveals the inspiration for the advertisement: “For 
many years the management of the University Theatre 
has found your reviews of the new films to be more 
practical and reliable than those found in any other trade 
publication. And when a young, inexperienced college 
critic came along and so violently disagreed with your 
opinion of Green Light, we just had to make an issue 
of it.” 

* * * 

USINGS: Sometimes I wonder if Simone Simon is 
familiar with the Hetch Hetchy project. ... If you 
like the Spectator, it would be a friendly act on your 
part so to inform a friend who is not a subscriber. . . . 
We have named our little wild duck Herbie as a com- 
pliment to Herbert Marshall, Hugh Herbert and Her- 
bert Rawlinson, though it is possible future develop- 
ments will make the name stand for Herbena. . . . Mrs. 
Spectator knits me the most admirable socks. Remind 
me some time to show them to you. . . . Bulbs from the 
great gladiolus farm of A. H. Nichols at Santa Maria, 
are coming along amazingly in our garden. ... We 
have named the new blonde spaniel puppy Freddie, after 
Freddie Astaire, Freddie March, Freddie MacMurray, 
Freddie Datig, and Fredericksburg, Virginia. ... In 
London a score of years ago I saw King George and 
Queen Mary driving to Westminster in the great golden 
coach the new king and queen rode in to their corona- 
tion, the former chore being the opening of parliament 
.... Some day I hope to see a motion picture in which 
the hero and heroine are shown in each of two scenes 
with at least three hairs out of place, even though it 
meant the loss of jobs by the comb-and-brush people 
who flutter around the sets. ... In the middle of one 
of our flower beds there is a flourishing plant which I 
believe ultimately will bear one or more squashes; how 
it got there I do not know, but I recognize its right to 
existence, hence I tend it carefully. . . . Application 
for squashes will be filed for delivery in order of receipt 
.... Out of the mouths of babes, etc. Mrs. Spectator 
and I were having a difficult time trying to figure out 
how to assemble the couch-hammock Sears-Roebuck de- 
liverers had deposited in chunks on our back lawn. The 
face of red-headed, four-year-old Bernard Bown was 
pressed against the far fence. Jerking his thumb in the 
direction of another neighbor’s house, he piped up, 
“There’s a thing like that over there. Why don’t you 
go over and look at it?” We went, we saw, we came 
back and conquered. Astonishing boy, Bernard. . . . 
The sun is shining, birds are singing, a thousand plants 
in the flower garden are beckoning me to come and tend 
them if I have hope of enjoying later their color and 
their perfume. So long! 




Page Six 


May 22, 1937 


Guild’s Great Power for Good -JD 


J17ISELY used, the power now invested in the Screen 
rr Actors Guild can be a big factor in the future of 
motion pictures. Socially, artistically and commercially 
it can revolutionize the picture map. It is all a matter of 
the Guild’s keeping its head. So far, it has progressed 
with discretion under leadership which seems to have 
been inspired. The leader, I believe, has been Kenneth 
Thomson ; at last, his is the only name I have seen al- 
ways connected with the Guild in the same capacity, 
and the papers have told us of his many trips hither and 
yon for the purpose of fortifying the Guild’s battle lines. 
Certainly the opening campaign was conceived brilliantly 
and executed ably, and the Guild will be wise in contin- 
uing it along the same praisworthy lines. 

The capitulation of the producers was but an incident, 
a preliminary skirmish to clear the way for the main ad- 
vance. The producers were vulnerable. Their handling 
of their players was heartless from the social standpoint 
and unwise from a business standpoint. The abrupt re- 
establishment of the relative importance of producers 
and players was the greatest thing which could happen 
to the business of making pictures. Their loss of prestige 
was earned by the producers’ unwise policy of handling 
their acting talent. For their own good, for the good of 
the stockholders in their companies, their complete domi- 
nation of the destinies of players had to be terminated. 
The Guild terminated it, and the extent of the boon 
which will be conferred on both the film industry and 
its acting personnel will be determined by the degree of 
wisdom displayed by the Guild in wielding the great 
power put into its hands. 

F 

I OR one thing, the Guild finds itself in a position to 
remedy an evil of the producers’ creation. The army of 
those seeking work as extras has been permitted to grow 
to enormous proportions. Artistically and financially 
the industry would be better off if it were reduced to 
proportions which would balance supply and demand. 
Daily Variety tells us there are twelve thousand names 
which could be removed from the Casting Bureau’s rolls 
without impairment of the source of supply. The great- 
er number of them are names of young men and women 
who live more on hope of employment than on fruits of 
labor. They use the fact of the enrollment, as an excuse 
for idleness, claiming their names on the Bureau’s list 
eliminates them from classification among the unem- 
ployed. I grew tired of helping one young fellow who 
had received only one call in almost a year, but pro- 
tested indignantly when I suggested he should seek a job 
in some other line. He was a registered extra, he 
claimed, had a job as such. Taking his name from the 
extra list and forcing him to seek elsewhere for em- 
ployment would be the kindest thing which could be 
done for him and for other thousands similarly situated. 

Another aspect of the social situation is the industry’s 
brutal indifference to the fate of those who played such 
a valuable part in building the foundation upon which 
the financial structure of motion pictures now rests. Only 


yesterday I stopped in front of a four-room cottage in 
San Fernando Valley and shouted greetings to a pre- 
maturely old man who was hoeing his vegetable garden. 
For nearly a decade prior to seven or eight years ago, 
the man’s name on a marquee caused more people to 
pass under it; he never gave a poor performance on the 
screen, always lived a sober, quiet life; built on a fash- 
ionable street a modest home for himself and his w 
He had a right to assume his position was assured ; ’ 
was serving his profession ably and loyally, was giving 
full value for what he received. 

T 

1 ODAY this fine actor is eating the last dollars re- 
ceived from the sale of his home and its rich furnishing 
The future he gazes into is an empty void. Occasionally 
he gets extra work, perhaps half a dozen days a year. 
You can multiply him by some hundreds before you 
complete the true picture of Hollywood. And it is up 
to the Guild to repaint the picture, to do something to 
add a future to the present of its members. It can be 
done by putting up a bar to future importations. Call 
it anything you will — restraint of trade, restricting ar- 
tistic expression, putting a curb on acting genius, depriv- 
ing the public of fresh talent — but through it all there 
stands out clearly the fact that the Guild members 
would be the most consummate asses alive if they did 
not take advantage of their power to make the future 
as comforting as a prospect as the present is as a fact. 

I read somewhere that doing something about the ne- 
glected players was on the list of things to be taken up 
by the Guild. The first step should be the dignifying 
of extra work by making it available to the smallest 
number consistent with the demands of production. The 
more dignified it becomes the less humiliating it will be 
to the old-time big players who accept it. It should not 
be thrown to them as we throw bones to dogs. About 
the only thing the actor I mention above has left is his 
pride. For heaven’s sake, let him keep that! I talked 
about him with a big producer whom he had served 
faithfully for years. “He should have saved money when 
he was making it,” was all the satisfaction I got. I told 
him I thought it would be wise for him to develop hu- 
man instincts for his own use before he endeavored to 
change the nature of others. Our neglected players know 
they should have saved their money, but that knowledge 
does not put food in their cupboards now. 

HAT EVER pressure the Guild applies to producers 
to assure a safe future for its members, can have only 
a beneficial effect on film theatre box-offices. Of all the 
insane ideas of producers the one which stands out most 
prominently is that the public continually is craving 
new faces. Hollywood has aped the stage in everything 
except those things it would be wise for it to ape ; it has 
been influenced by everything except the wisdom the 
stage could teach it. One thing the stage learned decades 
ago w’as that the public liked stock companies, liked to 
see a favorite player this week as the romantic lead and 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


next week as the butler. That fact the screen industry’s 
mental giants have ignored. They think the sound de- 
vice has revolutionized human nature, that it has changed 
the public from a desire to be entertained by its friends, 
to a great yearning to be entertained by strangers. They 
cry out for new faces because they can think of no other 
excuse for their difficulty in maintaining the strength of 
the box-office. 

The greatest boon which can be conferred upon the 
producing organization is the reduction of the number 
of players to the absolute minimum necessary for the 
filling of casts. Lacking the ability to figure out for 
themselves why the public does not desire new faces, 
producers should be forced to employ only old faces, re- 
plenishing the supply from the bottom as death or incli- 
nation reduces it at the top. The restricted' extra enroll- 
ment should be today’s training ground for tomorrow’s 
star material. Such a policy governing Guild activities 
would redound greatly to the film industry’s financial 
benefit. Screen entertainment would become more inti- 
mate; with fewer candidates for the friendship of the 
public, closer friendship would be established. 

OnE thought must be kept uppermost in the mind of 
Guild officials when treating with producers: There 
is not a player in the business whom a producer would 
not throw overboard ruthlessly the moment he thought the 
player could be of no further use to him. The whole 
history of production proves that, the pitiful array of 
neglected talent bears witness to it. Rarely does a player 
slump by virtue of his own failings. He is at the mercy 
of producer, writer and director — two or three appear- 
ances in bad pictures over which he has no control, and 
his sun has set. The practice has become a fixed fea- 
ture of picture procedure and the Guild’s steps to alter 
it will have to be drastic and without regard for the 
feeling of producers who never have displayed any feel- 
ing for those in their employ. 

One of the finest chapters in American industrial his- 
tory was written when the famous stars of motion pic- 
tures threatened to go out on strike unless the less fam- 
ous of their fellow-players were given a fair deal by their 
employers. It was a splendid thing to do — and a splendid 
thing for the film industry, as it ultimately will discover. 
Take the one item of reduction in the extra registra- 
tion. It would be interesting to know how much it costs 
producing companies now to cover shooting delays result- 
ing from the employment of half-trained extras. It 


NEASINESS of bankers and the big film producers 
over the financial future of pictures, gradually is 
coming into the open, is being mentioned in interviews 
appearing in the papers. Anyone with an ounce of b^ins 
knows that spending more on production and charging 
more to the public will serve only to hasten the financial 
crisis the industry must face. Producers cannot buy 
their way out of the impending difficulties. They will 
have to think their way out. In business there is no sub- 
stitute for brains. If the screen were run by people who 


would run into a huge sum. With the available supply 
so limited and shooting schedules so arranged that most 
of the recognized extras would be employed most of the 
time, producers would have at their command a well 
trained army which could snap into scenes in a fraction 
of the time now required to obtain good results. And — 
still more important — the entertanment quality of the 
production would be improved, for as time went on the 
extra ranks would be composed solely of expert players. 

HERE is one thing the Guild should put a stop to in- 
stantly: the insult to the decent women and girls of the 
screen who are asked to work in pictures with young 
women whose presence on the sets is due solely to the 
fact of their having been shameless enough to undress be- 
fore audiences. If producers cannot be decent for the 
sake of decency itself, then it is up to the Guild to force 
decency upon them. 

In the exercise of their newly acquired power, the Guild 
must not overlook the importance of its obligations to the 
film industry as a whole. Players are but part of the 
producers’ business and their financial security cannot be 
more assured than that of the entire industry. In short, 
it must see that the producers get a square deal from the 
players. One evil the Guild should tackle without delay 
is that of the agency racket. In a previous Spectator 
(December 19, 1936) I related the case of Errol Flynn. 
He had been receiving a salary of $125 a week up to the 
time of his appearance in Captain Blood. He showed so 
much promise in that picture that Jack Warner volun- 
tarily raised his salary in one jump to one thousand dol- 
lars per week. Flynn was satisfied completely until My- 
ron Selznick told him he was not getting enough and 
persuaded 1 him to strike for more, notwithstanding the 
existence of his contract with Warner Brothers. In the 
middle of the shooting of Another Dawn, Flynn refused 
to work until his salary was raised again. Selznick en- 
gineered the whole thing, turning a contented player vir- 
tually into a hold-up man. It would have cost Warners 
scores of thousands of dollars to replace Flynn in Another 
Dawn. Capitulation was the only way out, and the Flynn 
salary was fixed at $2500 a week in order to permit shoot- 
ing to continue. 

That is one example of agency racketeering it is up to 
the Guild to put a stop to. It should see that an actor’s 
signature on a contract means something. And it should 
see that only ethical agents are allowed to operate in 
Hollywood. 

could think in its terms, production costs could be re- 
duced, admission prices lowered and the film industry 
would be more prosperous than it ever has been. The 
present bar to the industry’s progress toward stability is 
an interesting study in psychology. Those who dictate 
picture policies assume a superior attitude to cloak an 
inferiority complex — they would like to acquire at least 
a little comprehension of the fundamentals of screen 
entertainment, but they shrink from betraying their need 
for it by the fact of their efforts to learn it; they know 


Sound in Relation to Other Elements 



Page Eight 


May 22, 1937 


a revolution in production methods is inevitable, but 
they realize its undertaking would be a confession of 
their responsibility for its necessity. It is an interesting 
situation. Maintaining a nice balance on the pedestals 
to which the sycophancy of their underlings has elevated 
them, is their chief concern. 

AlL the troubles rushing on the film industry are due 
to the manner of its use of the sound device. Instead 
of the greater glories it could have conferred on screen 
entertainment, sound is piling up its difficulties. It has 
changed the nature of the medium from one with which 
the audience formerly entertained itself, to one which 
must do the entertaining. It made the screen a factual 
medium, one which has sacrificed screen art to the Yacht 
Club Boys, swing orchestras, dance ensembles, spectacles. 
For a time such features gave audiences satisfaction, but 
each in turn finally must exhaust its ability to entertain. 
So far, producers have been lucky enough to find new 
attractions to plug the holes made by the waning popu- 
larity of the acts which flared into sudden successes, but 
the supply is running out and the box-office is demon- 
strating the necessity for new material. From my seat 
on the sidelines it appears the only way out for the film 
industry is to return to its original business of making 
motion pictures and give the sound device the place to 
which it should have been assigned from its inception. It 
never should have been permitted to become a substitute 
for anything which had established its right to recognition 
as one of the fundamental elements of screen art. And 
the greatest of all the elements, the one which set screen 
art apart from all other arts, which gave it in a twink- 
ling of time’s eye a world-wide popularity which no other 
medium of entertainment even approached, was silence. 

k)0UND, however, always had been an element of 
screen entertainment. It was only by the complete 
functioning of our imaginations that a motion picture 
meant anything to us. If our imaginations accepted a mov- 
ing shadow as a real fire engine dashing down a real 
street, they also made real the sound of the engine’s 
siren. Its enforced silence was not a weakness of the 
screen, therefore the microphone, merely as something 
which enabled it to make sounds, was not demanded by 
anything the medium lacked. But the lack of demand 
did not mean, that, having it, there was any reason why 
it should not be put to use. Obvious to everyone except 
those who make pictures was the fact that the microphone 
made it possible for each film to be provided with a full 
musical score at its source. Beyond that it could have 
been used to give silence more significance. (I develop 
this point further in an article to appear in a later Spec- 
tator as one of the series on screen fundamentals now 
running.) Instead of giving the microphone merely a 
part to play in screen productions, Hollywood — it really 
should be called Follywood — handed over the entire me- 
dium to it; instead of restricting it to expressing itself, 
it was assigned the task of expressing everything the 
screen offered. The result is the desperation of the pro- 
ducers in their search for novelities to take the place of 
what their use of sound has taken away from pictures. 


O NE would think the simplest method for producers 
to adopt would be to relegate sound to its legitimate use 
as an aid in the chart-room of the cinematic ship instead 
of retaining it as something in the hold which ultimately 
must scuttle the ship. Of all the contentions which pro- 
ducers advance to defend their use of sound, by far the 
most ludicrous is that it adds a touch of reality to a 
screen creation. Whoever charged the screen with lack- 
ing the quality of reality? It was the realest form of en- 
tertainment ever presented to the public until the degree 
of its reality was lessened by the injection of real sounds. 
Our imaginations made real everything the screen off- 
ered. Do you suppose any of us ever sighed over a pho- 
tograph of a boy making love to the photograph of a girl, 
or cried over a photograph of a mother grieving over a 
photograph of her baby? If we did not imagine what 
we were viewing was real, such scenes could mean no- 
thing whatever to us. But now we must hear the avowal 
of love and the sobs of the mother, “touches of reality” 
which make it harder to accept the rest of the composi- 
tion as real. Only by the complete harmony of all its 
elements can any art creation be worthy of its art. 

SoUND came to the screen merely as an added ele- 
ment in no way affecting the fundamental principles of 
screen art. It could have become a great help, but pro- 
ducer ignorance has made of it a great hindrance. As 
an element, it has been handled brilliantly by the tech- 
nicans who have developed it until it can reproduce a 
whisper as handily as it can a shout. But the same de- 
gree of brilliance has not been displayed in the applica- 
tion of sound to screen creations. Too much effort has 
been expended in the endeavor to achieve realism, to 
translate sounds literally for reproduction in film thea- 
tres. Such translations should be in terms of the medi- 
um which is going to express them. For instance, if we 
were translating a story written in French for publica- 
tion in English and came to the French salutation, 
“ Comment vous portez-vous aujourd’ huif” we would 
not translate it literally, “How you carry you today?” 
We would express it in idiomatic English — “How are 
you today?” The same principle should be followed in 
translating sounds for the screen. The trouble with 
stage actors and playwrights as well as composers of 
music, is their reluctance to make concessions to the new 
art when engaged to express themselves in it. They strive 
to carry the old arts with them into the new. 

0 NE day recently while driving I caught on my car 
radio part of a broadcast by an orchestra conductor. As 
I missed the beginning of the broadcast and arrived at 
my destination before it had concluded, I do not know 
who the speaker was, but he impressed me as being com- 
petent to discuss music. He said both radio and the 
screen had not succeeded yet in perfecting the recording 
of music for projection with all its values intact, but 
there still was hope of both ultimately giving us music 
which would sound exactly as we would hear it if we 
were present when it was recorded. I do not see that the 
world will lose anything if such mechanical perfection 
should not be attained. It is up to composers to meet 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


the machine half way, to compose for it, to take into ac- 
count its peculiarities, to yield to its demands. What 
matters to a picture audience is how the music sounds 
in the film theatre, not how it sounds at its source. The 
microphone has its peculiarities. It is not true to brasses 
and double basses; it does full justice to bassoons, clar- 
inettes and other wind instruments, but is not always 
able to do justice to violins. There are some voices it 
does not like, and scarcely ever does it give a sympa- 
thetic ear to large choruses. 

J UST as musicians, when composing, should take into 
account the importance of meeting the demands of the 
microphone, so should producers of motion pictures strive 
to understand the part it can play in screen entertain- 
ment. The first thing to be learned is that its mission 
is not to bring anything to the screen which the audience 
can supply with its imagination. The motion picture’s 


popularity was due in the first place to what might be 
epitomized as its ability to make us believe we were 
looking at a real steam whistle in operation and allow- 
ing our imaginations to provide the sound. It would be 
interesting to know by what process of reasoning picture 
producers arrive at the conclusion that the actual sound 
of the whistle adds anything to the scene. It is just 
noise, and it is noise which is driving the public away 
from film theatres. Producers probably would claim 
that as the microphone is able to make a noise; there 
is no reason why it should not make it. I am quite able 
to journey out to Santa Monica and jump off the end 
of the pier, but I do not see that the fact of my being 
able makes it obligatory for me to do it. The sound de- 
vice presented producers with opportunities to emphasize 
story points, to make dramatic moments more gripping, 
but its present full-toned use makes it a burden the film 
industry is finding it difficult to bear. 


How to Present Dialogue Intelligently "0 


(The seventh of a series of special articles by the Edi- 
tor on film fundamentals.) 

r HE American screen today reveals their imitative fac- 
ulty to be the one which picture producers exercise most 
consistently. In the previous Spectator I related the 
instance of the first skating picture having started most 
of the producers making pictures containing skating se- 
quences. Hollywood’s belief in cycles to a certain extent has 
a sound psychological foundation to rest upon. The Sonja 
Henie picture pleases audiences which see it ; pleasure is 
associated with skating; skating in another picture sug- 
gests agreeable entertainment ; and apparently a succes- 
sion of skating pictures forms a cycle. But the mistake 
producers make is their believing that the desire for skat- 
ing pictures originates with the public and that even the 
first skating picture is made to meet a demand which pre- 
viously had sprouted suddenly in the public mind. 

This cycle complex springs from the same root from 
which comes other weaknesses retarding the development 
of the art of the screen, with a corresponding injurious 
effect upon the business of the screen. The root of prac- 
tically all the present troubles is the possession by picture 
producers of highly developed inferiority complexes. Even 
while they are paying high salaries to publicity men to 
tell the world how good they are, they have to admit to 
themselves their lack of knowledge of the screen as an art, 
their ignorance of the fundamental appeal which has giv- 
en it its strength as a medium of entertainment, and the 
principles which should govern the creation of a motion 
picture. That they know they cannot recognize cinematic 
values is demonstrated by the volume of their purchase 
of books and plays as story material for their productions. 
If those who control the industry understood the art, the 
best writers in the world would be writing original stories 
for motion pictures. But more on that point when we 
reach it in a later discussion. 


O UR present search is for the straight talkie’s place on 
the screen entertainment program, a search we embark- 
ed upon in the fifth article of this series, followed through 
the sixth without reaching our objective and now are in 
the seventh with the objective not yet in sight. But on 
our way we have picked up much of value to our under- 
standing of the whole situation. We must not forget the 
screen is a business of selling an art, and if we are to 
decide what is good for the art, we must be governed by 
considerations for the good of the business. We have 
argued previously that as it was the public’s patronage 
of silent pictures more as a matter of habit than through 
critical choice among the attractions offered it, which 
was responsible for the initial prosperity of the film in- 
dustry, the new element of sound should have been ap- 
plied to screen creations in a manner that would have 
kept intact the elements which gained the screen its first 
popularity. 

Audible dialogue fouls the purity of screen art, but its 
judicious use as a factor in expediting production makes 
its business significance too important to be sacrificed to 
our meticulous demands for pure cinema. But making 
the camera the story-telling medium and making audible 
only such speeches as in silent days appeared on the screen 
as printed titles, are practical concessions to the art which 
could have only beneficial effect on the business by getting 
people back into the habit of attending picture houses 
more often than they do at present. 

D 

U UT if we carry the recognition of the art up to this 
point, we will be denying ourselves such a joyous treat 
as My Man Godfrey, the intellectual stimulant of Romeo 
and Juliet, the delightfully diverting philosophy of Mr. 
Deeds Goes to Town, three outstanding examples of 
screen entertainment made successful because of their dia- 
logue, not in spite of it. If we had cut the dialogue down 
to its possible minimum and used the camera to cover the 


Page Ten 


May 22, 1937 


eliminations, we would have denied ourselves the delight- 
ful nonsense of Godfrey, the exquisite poetry of Romeo 
and the homely speeches of Mr. Deeds. So it would ap- 
pear we must have talkies as part of our cinematic pro- 
gram — pictures which tell their stories almost entirely 
with the microphone. 

Nothing I have written so far in this series of discus- 
sions, or in anything else I have written, has been to the 
effect that I do not like talkies. I do like them — like 
them very much — and am quite content to see one every 
evening. Yesterday I saw three, one in the morning, 
another in the afternoon, the third at evening. One day 
I saw five. But it is my business to see pictures. I view 
them as something to study, not as a relaxing agency to 
rest me after a hard day’s work. Almost every talkie one 
sees has some merit, and some of them are brilliant ex- 
amples of the union of the camera and the microphone. 
I would not carry my obsession for the purity of screen 
art to the point of denying the public the enjoyment it 
can derive from an engaging story told intelligently in 
the talkie form. 

IjET us go back a little. The greatest, most valuable 
asset the film industry can acquire is the revival of 
the public’s habit of attending film theatres. The tech- 
nique which esablished the habit in the silent days would 
restore it now, would provide a form of entertainment 
which the public would find so relaxing its attendance 
would become more regular than the continuance of all- 
talkie programs could make it. If the producing organi- 
zations would begin again to make motion pictures the 
attendance habit would be restored. Then the chief 
concern of the industry would be the preservation of the 
habit, to guard aginst a repetition of its cessation. To put 
it in another way: The concern of the industry would 
be to determine the saturation point of all-talkies with 
regard to the safety of the habit, then to make just 
sufficient talkies to reach the point and not go beyond it. 

After seeing a succession of motion pictures, an audi- 
ence would be delighted with a change of diet in the way 
of a Call It a Day with its fun, or Lost Horizon with its 
intellectual and visual appeal. Such attractions sprinkled 
through the flow of screen entertainment would not break 
the habit responsible for the film industry’s financial 
welfare. It, too, would enable producers to avail them- 
selves of story material whose values can be developed 
by the microphone to better advantage than by the cam- 
era. But if producers are to make just the number of 
talkies to form the right mixture with motion pictures, 
they should display a better understanding of the talkie 
form than they have displayed thus far in the history 
of the sound screen. 

T 

l HE inferiority complex which leads producers into 
imitating one another instead of breaking new trails, in- 
fluences also their purchases of story material. They are 
afraid to trust their own convictions, afraid to rely upon 
their own judgement of cinematic values of an original 
story. If a play about a hitch-hiking heiress is produced 
in New York, a film producer will purchase it and make 


it into a picture. If the picture is a success, film produc- 
ers will credit the public mind with veering suddenly to 
hitch-hiking heiresses — with starting a new cycle — and 
it would be possible then to sell them an original story 
about a hitch-hiking heiress. That the success of the play 
was in no way due to the fact of its being about an heir- 
ess with itching feet, that it prospered solely because of 
the dramatic power with which the episodes in the girl’s 
life were presented, plus the brilliancy of the lines and 
the excellence of the performances, lies in the depths be- 
yond the probing limits of the producers’ minds. 

However, it is not my purpose here to quarrel with 
the system of story selection or to criticize producers for 
their failure to establish their own literature; those are 
subjects we will come to later, but new let us consider 
how the makers of screen entertainment handle their 
talkie material after they get it. 

The one thing the sudden growth, the worldwide 
popularity, of the silent picture established, was that 
screen art was as soundly marketable as iron or wheat — 
was as stable an article of commerce as any a business- 
man could hope to trade in. 

w 

ff E outlined in a previous article how far the silent 
picture should have been asked to yield its form to the 
sound device. Let us now determine how far pure screen 
art can go in the way of embracing the alien element 
of audible dialogue and still maintain its market value. 
We already have established the number of talkies the 
market will absorb without getting indigestion ; we wish 
to decide how they should be made. 

The picture producer firmly believes and solemnly will 
tell you the public demands talk in its film entertainment. 
Being honest in holding such veiws, it is understandable 
that in going over from motion pictures to talkies he 
was indifferent as to the amount of picture technique he 
brought with him. The present talkie is little more than 
photographed dialogue, and so far have the principles of 
screen art been left behind, their influence is not per- 
mitted to play even a minor role in the talkie form. A 
simple rule for any kind of screen creation, either a mo- 
tion picture or a talkie, should be that nothing which can 
be demonstrated visually should be expressed in audible 
words. But close adherence to such role would deny the 
public the esthetic pleasure which language, as such, can 
give us. There is worded beauty in some passages in the 
Bible and tomorrow there will be a new wisecrack to 
make us laugh. Why should we be denied them merely 
because we have to take liberties with an art to obtain 
them ? 

But rarely does the screen today attempt to please 
us with the high art possible for spoken literature to 
attain. We are surfeited with the censored imprecations 
of gangsters, the standardized utterances of screen sha- 
dows in love, the “dese,” and “dems” and “doses” of 
people who talk that way, and in almost every instance 
you will find the story overloaded with such talk is one 
which would have made more impressive entertainment 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


if it had been written for the camera instead of for the 
microphone. 

The trouble with the screen today is that it is thinking 
in terms of talk, but not in terms of what it says. 

The talk which is included as an integral element of 
a screen creation does not have to be standardized. Let 
us consider some pictures, one, My Man Godfrey , al- 
ready referred to. What speech in it can you remember? 
I can remember none, and I saw it three times. It was 
so delightfully nonsensical, so downright crazy, its mood 
so admirably sustained by the brilliant direction of Greg- 
ory La Cava and the clever performances of Carole 
Lombard, William Powell and other members of the 
cast, that what the characters said was merely an arti- 
culated part of an amusing scene. We remember the 
whole scene but cannot recall the lines which were a 
part of it. That is one legitimate use of audible dialogue 
in a screen production — its use more as sound effect than 
as something entertaining by virtue of the manner in 
which it is worded. 

R.EMBRAND T , an English picture produced and 
directed by Alexander Korda, talented European whose 
ability was not recognized when he was tring to gain a 
foothold in Hollywood production circles, provides an 
illumiating illustration of the legitimate use of dialogue 
for the sake of its literary beauty and as an element in 
characterizing a player. Charles Laughton, playing Rem- 
brandt van Rijn, delivers a speech of two hundred and 
nine words, containing story value which he could have 
expressed in three: “I love Saskia.” But such a brief 
statement would not have matched the mood of the scene 
or given full expression to the feelings stirring him. In 
a low tone, speaking more to himself than to the gay 
throng surrounding him, Rembrandt pays a beautiful 
tribute to Saskia, his wife, crediting her with the com- 
bined virtues of all women : 

“A creature, half-child, half-woman, half-angel, half- 
lover, brushed against him, and of sudden he knetv that 
when one woman gives herself to you, you possess all 
women — women of every age and race and kind — and, 
more than that, the moon, the stars, all miracles and 
legends are yours ; the brown-skinned girls who inflame 
your senses with their play; the cool, yellow-haired 
women who entice and escape you; the gentle ones who 
serve you; the slender ones who torment you; the mothers 
who bore and suckled you — all women whom God creat- 
ed out of the teeming fullness of the earth are yours in 
the love of one woman. Throw a purple mantle lightly 
over her shoulders, and she becomes a Queen of Sheba, 
lay your tousled head blindly upon her breast, and she 
is a Delilah waiting to enthrall you. Take her garments 
from her, strip the last veil from her body, and she is a 
chaste Susanne covering her nakedness with fluttering 
hands. Gaze upon her as you would gaze upon a thou- 
sand strange women, but never call her yours — for her 
secrets are inexhaustible ; you will never know them all. 
Call her by one name only; I call her Saskia.” (The 
Rembrandt dialogue was written by Lojos Biro and 
Arthur Winteris.) 


A SUSTAINED speech by Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds 
/l Goes to Town has definite story value, and its length 
is justified by the homespun philosophy written into it 
by Robert Riskin and the intelligent reading given it by 
Cooper. Defending himself in court when his sanity is 
questioned, one of the accounts against him being his 
playing of the tuba under circumstances which his ac- 
cusers claim point to his lack of mental balance, Mr. 
Deeds speaks: “About my playing the tuba — seems like 
a lot of fuss has been made about that. If a man’s crazy 
just ’cause he plays the tuba, somebody better look into 
it, ’cause there are a lot of tuba players running around 
loose. Of course, I don’t see any harm in it. I play 
mine whenever I want to concentrate. That may sound 
funny to some people, but most everybody does some- 
thing silly when they’re thinking. For instance, the 
Judge here is an O-filler. . . You fill in all the spaces in 
the O’s with your pencil. I was watching you. That 
may make you look a little crazy, Your Honor, just sit- 
ting around filling in O’s, but I don’t see anything wrong. 
’Cause that helps you think. Other people are doodlers. . . 
That’s a name we made up back home for people who 
make foolish designs on paper while they’re thinking. 
It’s called doodling. Most everybody is a doodler. Did 
you ever see a scratch pad in a telephone booth ? People 
draw the most idiotic pictures when they’re thinking. 
Dr. Fraser here would probably think up a long name 
for it, ’cause he doodles all the time. If Dr. Fraser had 
to doodle to help him think, that’s his business — every- 
body does something different. Some people are . . ear- 
pullers, some are nail-biters. That man there — Mr. 
Semple — is a nose twitcher. The lady with him is a 
knuckle-cracker. So you see, Your Honor, everybody 
does funny things to help them think. Well, I play the 
tuba.” 


OT often even in a stage play composed entirely of 
speeches, and still more rarely in a talking picture, is one 
unbroken speech of such length written for a player. 
Subjecting audiences to the necessity of sustained listen- 
ing for such a long period is not good craftsmanship. 
Both on the stage and in pictures the device usually re- 
sorted to to elicit essential facts of a witness’s testimony 
in the trial of a case, is a question-and-answer exchange 
between counsel and witness. Such device could have 
been employed in Mr. Deeds. It was available to both 
Riskin, writer of the screen play, and Frank Capra, 
director of the picture. JA)r his masterly cinematic in- 
terpretation of the story material in this production, 
Capra received from the Academy of Motion Picture 
Arts and Sciences, the award for the best direction of 
1936. A big factor in his selection no doubt was the man- 
ner in which he handled the scene in which Cooper makes 
his long spech. 

Capra presents the speech with a relieving accompani- 
ment of pertinent action. When Cooper charges the 
judge with being a doodler, there is a burst of laughter 
by the audience, stimulated into increased volume an 
instant later by the reaction of the surprised judge. 
And so it goes throughout the entire speech. Even though 


Page Twelve 


May 22, 1937 


it is not interrupted by another voice, it is not a speech 
which demands sustained listening by the audience. 
Laughter bubbles up along its entire course. In essence 
a man defending himself against an accusation of mental 
incompetency, presents a spectacle lacking in all sugges- 
tion of mirthprovoking elements. But here the audience 
is not laughing at Mr. Deeds; it is laughing with him 
as he neatly turns the tables on his accusers, who, as the 
audience is aware, are endeavoring to get control of his 
fortune. 


the camera instead of to the microphone for their inter- 
pretation. 

That will be the text of the article which will appear 
in the next Spectator. 

Some Late ^Previews 

Love At First Fright 


N OTHER legitimate use of audible dialogue is dem- 
onstrated in The Devil Is a Sissy, directed by W. S. 
Van Dyke; the story by Rowland Brown and the screen 
play by John Lee Mahin and Richard Schayer. It really 
is a moral preachment aimed at boys, but so well pre- 
sented it was received with satisfaction by adult audi- 
ences. Although the titles of the majority of pictures 
are catch-phrases bearing little relation to anything in 
the stories, in this case the title has significance. It is 
a provocative title. What does it mean? is a question 
one who views the picture would ask. No creation of 
any art should suggest a question it does not answer if it 
is to preserve the perfect unity, the completeness within 
itself, all creations must possess to be worthy examples 
of their arts. The title of The Devil Is a Sissy prompts 
a question and its dialogue answers it. 

The judge of the juvenile court, played with under- 
standing and sympathy by Jonathan Hale, has an in- 
formal and friendly chat with three boys brought before 
him on charge of having stolen some toys. As part of the 
intimate scene, we hear the judge: “That’s what makes 
a fellow tough — to be able to take it. You wouldn’t 
want anybody to call you a little devil, would you? 
That’s what they say about bad little sissies who act 
naughty when they can’t have their own way. . . By the 
way, the devil’s a weak sister. You know that, don’t 
you? Because he was an angel once . . . and an angel 
has to be tough to do his job, and the devil couldn’t be 
tough enough so they threw him out — and he’s been hid- 
ing down below ever since. You know, I think the devil 
is a sissy.” 

F 

I ROM this speech by the judge we learn the title is 
the text of the sermon the whole picture preaches. It is 
another legitimate use of dialogue and as it is presented 
in an easy, conversational manner, it is assimilated by the 
audience without intellectual effort. Laughton’s speech 
has emotional appeal and Cooper’s appeals principally to 
that sense which provides us with the utmost relaxation 
— our sense of humor. 

One cannot quarrel with the film industry for offering 
for sale pictures demanding purely intellectual digestion, 
which expound philosophical and psychological problems. 
There is a market for them, but it is an extremely limit- 
ed one as compared with that for emotional entertain- 
ment. It so happens that the vast majority of stories the 
industry has filmed since the screen became articulate, 
would have provided more satisfactory entertainment and 
commanded a wider market if they had been entrusted to 


WINGS OVER HONOLULU, Universal picture and release. E. 
M. Asher, associate producer; directed by H. C. Potter; screen 
play by Isabel Dawn and Boyce DeGaw; from story by Mildred 
Cram; photographed by Joseph Valentine; art direction by Jack 
Otierson; Maurice Wright, film editor; musical direction by 
Charles Previn; special effects by John P. Fulton; Frank Shaw, as- 
sistant director. Cast: Wendy Barrie, Ray Milland, Kent laylor, 
William Gargan, Polly Rowles, Mary Philips, Samuel S. Hinds, Mar- 
garet McWade, Clara Blandick, Joyce Compton and Louise Beav- 
ers. Running time, 80 minutes. 

ENDY BARRIE has one glimpse of Ray Milland 
and goes rigid. I thought she was scared stiff ; she 
looked it, and I still think she was, for it must be fright- 
ening to fall in love so suddenly and so violently — some 
new manifestation of emotional internal combustion. But 
Milland is not so hasty; none of that sudden impulse 
stuff for him! It must have been a full hour after see- 
ing the girl for the first time that he asked her to marry 
him; and so deep was Wendy’s love that another hour 
or so elapsed after her acceptance before she remembered 
the detail of asking him what his name was. 

Now, H. C. Potter is an intelligent director. He re- 
vealed as much in his first picture, Beloved Enemy, for 
Sam Goldwyn. And possibly two people could fall in 
love as suddenly as these two do — perhaps many have. 
But what people have done in real life is not always 
legitimate screen material. I know a man who once was 
worried greatly because of a lack of a specific sum of 
money which he had to have to get himself out of a 
difficulty. On the sidewalk in front of the building in 
which he had his office, he found the exact sum of money 
in a dirty envelope, advertised it, no one claimed it, he 
got out of his difficulty. You do not believe it, and I 
would not believe it if it were part of a screen story. 
Yet it actually happened. So people might have fallen 
in love as explosively as the two do in Wings Over Hon- 
olulu, but that does not make it legitimate screen mater- 
ial, which should be composed, not of what has happened, 
but what an audience will believe could happen. 

HE story is one presenting the difficulties confronting 
a bride who marries a naval officer. It shows she has 
to compete with the service itself in her efforts to hold 
her husband’s love. The theme makes it necessary to get 
the wedding out of the way as soon as possible, but the 
story treatment gives the picture a false start by the sud- 
denness of the romance. It would have been easy to have 
made Milland an old friend arriving unexpectedly at 
Wendy’s party, and their boy-and-girl affection suddenly 
flaring into true love. The theme then would have been 
strengthened by being a presentation of the navy’s effect 
on a love which had endured from childhood, but which 
almost collapsed under pressure of naval routine. As we 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


have the romance, it is so sudden its collapse is only what 
we might expect. But even that is not the main story 
weakness. What harms the picture most is the narrow- 
ness of the story’s application. It has direct appeal only 
to naval officers and girls who marry them. 

When those of us who are not in the navy either by 
Annapolis or marriage, visit a film theatre, we wish to 
see stories about us, presenting things which could hap- 
pen to us. My wife knows that to hold my love she 
possibly might have to compete with a blonde, but never 
with a battleship, consequently she has no direct interest 
in anything which could happen only to the wife of a 
naval officer. What story it has, Universal presents 
handsomely and Potter directs capably, but it is a pic- 
ture with restricted appeal and little prospect of general 
acclaim. Visually it is a beautiful thing, thanks to the 
camera skill of Joseph Valentine and the capable art 
direction of Jack Otterson. It presents us with Polly 
Rowles, a newcomer. She is a girl who will bear watch- 
ing. She strikes me as having just about everything the 
screen demands. She is going to become a great favorite. 


Warners Present Linemen 

SLIM, Warners production and release. Executive producer, Hal 
B. Wallis; associate producer, Sam Bischoff; directed by Ray En- 
right; screen play by William Wister Haines, from his novel, SUM; 
assistant director, Leeman Katz; special photographic effects, By- 
ron Haskins; film editor, Owen Marks; art director, Ted Smith; mu- 
sical director, Leo F. Forbstein; photographed by Sid Hickox. 
Cast: Pat O'Brien, Henry Fonda, Margaret Lindsay, Stuart Erwin, 
J. Farrell MacDonald, Dick Purcell, Joseph Sawyer, Craig Reynolds, 
John Litel, Jane Wyman, Harlan Tucker, Joseph King, Carlyle 
Moore, Jr., James Robbins, Henry Otho, Dick Wessell, Max Wag- 
ner, Ben Hendricks, Alonzo Price, Maidel Turner, Walter Miller. 
Running time, 85 minutes. 

S TRANGELY enough, the picture I saw next after 
viewing Wings Over Honolulu, was a Warner Bro- 
thers production with much the same story, and to which 
I can point to support my argument that the restricted 
naval-officer circle is a poor locale for a talkie looking 
for the patronage of the public at large. In Slim we have 
two loyal friends in the persons of Pat O’Brien and 
Henry Fonda; and a nurse (Margaret Lindsay) whom 
both of them love. As in Wings Over Honolulu the 
story has to compete with the navy to hold our attention, 
so in Slim the story has to compete with an industry. 
O’Brien and Fonda are linemen engaged in stringing 
high-tension wires. 

My objection to the Universal story was that as it 
concerned only life in the navy, it was too limited in 
its application, that any moral it taught could concern 
only naval officers and their wives. One might argue 
that a linemen story likewise would concern only line- 
men, therefore have but limited application. But such 
is not the case. Stringing wires is the daily occupation 
in a trade not as highly specialized as service as a naval 
officer, and differing only in its physical operations from 
hundreds of other trades. The Slim story, consequently, 
has none of the weaknesses of the navy story. The inci- 
dents which compose it could happen in any trade or 
profession, which makes it easy to project ourselves into 
it. As things peculiar only to the navy almost wrecks a 
romance in the Universal story, so do things common to 


almost any other line of endeavor almost wreck the ro- 
mance in Slim. 

T 

I HE wider application of the Warner picture will 
make it appeal to a larger audience. There is not a great 
deal to the story, but there is enough of it to hold toge- 
ther its various physical elements and make it excellent 
entertainment. It demonstrates again the screen’s power 
to put us in intimate contact with a daily occupation of 
a little group of men about whom we could learn so 
graphically in no other way, even though we depend 
upon them for the continued service of the various elec- 
tric devices which figure in the smooth operation of our 
homes. To that extent the picture is educational, widen- 
ing the scope of our knowledge of things it is interesting 
to know even though we have no intention of putting the 
knowledge to practical use. Certainly after viewing the 
chances linemen take and the hardships they encounter, 
I have no regrets that I merely write lines and do not 
hang them on steel towers. 

Sam Bischoff, producer, and the Warner technical 
staff which had to do with the physical features of the 
production, are to be commended for having done a wor- 
thy job. The film editing of Owen Marks is a big fac- 
tor in the smooth results obtained. He put the film to- 
gether in a manner which makes us tremble for the 
safety of Pat O’Brien, Henry Fonda and others atop the 
great steel towers, even though we are aware the danger 
of their high perching is a creation of the camera and 
cutting, that the principals never were in peril. 

RaY Enright’s direction is of that discerning quality 
which creates the impression the story is telling itself. 
He does not offer us a collection of actors playing parts. 
Instead, he gives us a group of linemen going about their 
jobs, intent upon getting them done and without regard 
for the fact that we are watching them. Such direction 
results only in flawless, authentic performances which 
convey conviction and hold our close attention. Physi- 
cally it is a robust production dealing with the labors of 
strong and agile men, but it has none of the loud dia- 
logue which make so many of such pictures irritating to 
listen to. Gene Lewis, director of dialogue, saw to it 
that the players were so proficient in their reading of 
lines that they lost none of their cleverness in yielding 
to Enright’s apparent insistence on dialogue in natural 
conversational tones which matched the moods of the 
various scenes. 

The cast does excellent work. Pat O'Brien plays with 
quiet force which can be developed only by intelligent 
grasp of the significance of a role. Obviously he is much 
in love with Margaret Lindsay, but when she expresses 
her preference for his friend, only his eyes and a few 
softly spoken words of well-wishes for the two, reveal 
to us the depth of his emotions. Margaret is one of my 
favorite young players. Her work always is sincere. She 
moves quietly through this picture, indulges in no heroics, 
has no dramatic scenes, but still is a big factor in the 
satisfaction it will give audiences. Henry Fonda proves 
to be ideal casting in the name part. He gives us the 
impression that no one else could have played Slim, a 


Page Fourteen 


May 22, 1937 


farm boy who becomes a lineman. Stu Erwin is excellent 
in a comedy part, which, however, as written narrowly 
escapes becoming a nuisance by virtue of having so many 
lines without story value. Joseph King, always sincere 
and impressive, and J. Farrell MacDonald, a screen 
stalwart with a host of film friends, also are among 
those to be credited with excellent performances. Mac- 
Donald is not seen often enough. There is no cast to 
which he cannot add strength. 


Is Psychologically Unsound 


THEY GAVE HIM A GUN, Metro production and release. Stars 
Spencer Tracy, Gladys George and Franchot Tone. Harry Rapt, 
associate producer; screen play by Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum 
and Maurice Rapf; from book by William Joyce Cowen; directed 
by W. S. Van Dyke II; art director, Cedric Gibbons; associates, 
Harry McAfee and Edwin B. Willis; photographed by Harold Ros- 
son; montage effects by Slavo Vorkapich; film editor, Ben Lewis. 
Supporting cast: Edgar Dearing, Mary Lou Treen, Cliff Edwards, 
Charles Trowbridge, Horace MacMahon, Tony Beard, Joe Sawyer, 
George Chandler, Gavin Gordon, Ernest Whitman, Nita Pike, Joan 
Woodbury. Running time, 97 minutes. 


r RTJE, they gave him a gun and taught him how to use 
it in line with the purpose for which it was given 
him ; but the picture would have us believe the World 
War taught the young man to be a murderous gang- 
ster, that it developed in him criminal tendencies which 
never would have come to light if there had been no 
war. We are supposed to side with the author’s view of 
it and extend our sympathy to a young beast not entitled 
to any. MGM has given the picture one of its usual 
graphic and visually appealing productions — has made 
an honest effort to give full value for the price of ad- 
mission — but as screen entertainment, They Gave Him 
a Gun lacks the ring of sincerity which spells box-office 
success. Director Van Dyke presents the story in a mat- 
ter-of-fact way, a sort of honest, plodding job without 
either flashes of genius or blemished spots. 

The story lacks psychological soundness in that it 
tries to make us accept a premise which is without merit 
— that a hitherto blameless character became a murderer 
solely because of his having become profficient in the use 
of fire arms during the war. What about the millions 
of others who received the same training in all the arm- 
ies and went back to their jobs as peaceful citizens after 
the war? The story weakness does not lie in the fact of 
Franchot Tone’s having become a gangster when he re- 
turned home; it is the story’s maudlin attempt to justify 
him by advancing his army training as a legitimate ex- 
cuse for his crimes. 


1 HE romance is equally unbelievable. Gladys George, 
whose careful make-up and meticulous hair-dress even 
a World War could not disturb, loves Spencer Tracy; 
he is reported as having been killed in action ; because 
she is too listless thereafter to care what happens, she 
marries Tone; Tracy comes back, but she sticks to Tone 
even while he is serving a term in the penitentiary, the 
revelation of his criminal record reducing none of the 
fervor of her loyalty to a man she does not love. Had 
the part been played by a girl of the unsophisticated 
type who had been taught from childhood that marriage 
ties are sacred, we might have caught her point of view 


and attributed her steadfastness to a mistaken inborn 
sense of loyalty. 

But Gladys George is not that type. We see her as a 
woman of the world, who knows her way around. Mis- 
tress of the techinque of stage acting and revealing little 
of the personality screen acting demands, she gives a 
coldly competent performance which has intellectual ap- 
peal but leaves our sympathies untouched. The value 
of a screen characterization is measured in terms of our 
emotional reaction to it. Here we have a romance too 
mechanically contrived to stir our emotions, Miss Geor- 
ge’s contribution to it being without sentimental appeal. 
Tracy, seemingly incapable of giving a poor performance, 
is warmly human in all phases of his characterization, 
which is a masterpiece of intelligent repression and quiet 
forcefulness. Mary Lou Treen impresses me more with 
each performance. 

HEN the picture started I thought that here, at last, 
was to be the anti-war preachment the world is waiting 
for. A speech by Tone declaring his willingness to be 
a good citizen at home and his objection to killing in 
war men who had done nothing to him, evoked the only 
burst of sincere applause accorded the film by the large 
invited audience present at the preview. But it turned 
out to be just a gangster picture with a war background. 
That leaves the anti-war film still to be made, one which 
the entire world would receive with the utmost enthusi- 
asm, one which could do more towards putting an end 
to the insanity of war than could be accomplished in any 
other way. But Hollywood producers lack the nerve 
to make it. They are afraid Mr. Hitler would not like 
it and exhibitors in Ethiopia might not show it. A well 
made picture of the sort would make so much money 
in the United States alone that its producer could tell 
the foreign market to go hang. 

They Gave Him a Gun has plenty of war in it and 
the Metro technical geniuses have made the sequencs 
impressively war-like. The camera craftsmanship of 
Slavko Vorkapich, an artist in composing dramatic 
scenes, is responsible for stirring montage effects. By 
way of variety, we are taken into New York streets and 
a penitentiary, and then visit the grounds occupied for 
the moment by an itinerant carnival company. But the 
sum total of the whole film effort is a rather cold and 
unconvincing mixture of war, romance, and gangsterism. 


New Dress for an Old One 


THIS IS MY AFFAIR, 20th Century-Fox. Associate producer, 
Kenneth Macgowan; director, William A. Seiter; story and screen 
play, Allen Rivkin and Lamar Trotti; photographer, Robert Planck; 
music director, Arthur Lange; dance director, Jack Haskell; assist- 
ant director, Earl Haley. Cast: Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, 
Victor McLaglen, Brian Donlevy, Sidney Blackmer, John Carradine, 
Alan Dinehart, Douglas Fowley, Robert McWade, Frank Conroy, 
Sig Rumann, Marjorie Weaver, J. C. Nugent, Tyler Brooke, Willard 
Robertson, Paul Hurst, Douglas Wood, Jonathan Hale, John Ham- 
ilton, Joseph Crehan, Mary Young, Maurice Cass, Paul McVey, 
Jayne Regan, Ruth Gillette, Jim Donlan, Davison Clark, Fred Sant- 
ley, Helen Brown, De Witt Jennings. 


£ XCELLENT entertainment. It takes us back to the 
turn of the century and makes its reaction visually 
and psychologically authentic. My memory goes back far 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


enough to qualify me as an amateur expert in giving credit 
to Rudolph Sternad, art director, and Thomas Little, 
who dressed the sets, for their meticulous attention to 
details in bringing us in visual terms the period of the 
story. Royer — male or female I know not — also deserves 
praise for designing the costumes which play their part 
in making the recent yesterday live again before our eyes. 
If all the rest of the production were quite ordinary, 
This Is My Affair would be well worth viewing merely 
as something to look at. 

But all the rest of the production matches in appeal its 
visual qualities. For one thing, it gives us Barbara Stan- 
wyck in perhaps her best performance; and for another, 
it has a really startling portrait of the late President 
Theodore Roosevelt brought back to life by the magnifi- 
cents acting of Sidney Blackmer; another, equally as vivid 
but of less story prominence, of the late Admiral Dewey, 
vividly depicted by Robert McWade; a third, Frank 
Conroy’s masterly President William McKinley, accur- 
ate in every detail, even to the twitching of his cheek. 
Kenneth Macgowan, Darryl Zanuck’s lieutenant in pro- 
ducing the picture, was fortunate in being able to secure 
three actors for these historical impersonations who, with 
the aid of make-up geniuses, could be physically such strik- 
ing likenesses of the originals, but who possessed also the 
ability to make them live again before our eyes as impres- 
sively as if they had stepped from history’s pages and 
played the parts in person. Certainly those who retain 
personal memories of the first President Roosevelt will 
acclaim Blackmer’s impersonation as one of the screen’s 
great acting achievements. 

T 

m HE charm of Barbara Stanwyck’s personality is enough 
in itself to make me enjoy each of her screen appearances. 
I like her performance in this picture better than any 
other because her personality so exactly fits the part and 
the period of the story. Her popularity with the patrons 
of the place in which she sings and dances is understand- 
able, and her reaction to the situations in which she finds 
herself is at all times natural. She should be grateful to 
William Seiter for his intelligent and sympathetic direc- 
tion. Only a combination of good direction and rare 
ability could have produced a performance which never 
suggests either direction or acting. Robert Taylor is sat- 
isfactory in all phases of his performance which present 
him as a man of action, but if he is to retain his vast popu- 
larity he must give heed to the development of ability to 
depict emotion less mechanically than he has thus far in 
his career. His romantic moments lack true romantic 
flavor. 

Victor McLaglen plays a burly part written with more 
regard for its status as a characterization than for its 
logical inclusion as a story element. He is much too 
dumb to be believable as the chief lieutenant of a master 
bank-robber. But a thoroughly believable master criminal 
is Brian Donlevy who is perfect as the quiet, unemo- 
tional, motivating force of the story. Tyler Brooke goes 
back to his song-and-dance days and gives a capital per- 
formance. In all, I see thirty names on the cast sheet 
given me at the preview. Every one weaves something 
into the pattern of the story, and as the pattern as a 
whole is a highly creditable screen accomplishment, all 


those contributing to it are entitled to praise. Among the 
contributors are Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, whose 
musical embellishment is a big factor in the success of the 
picture as a piece of screen entertainment. One number 
in which the beauty of the music is matched by the beauty 
of the lyric, is sung appealingly by Barbara and should 
attain popularity. 

An outstanding feature of Setter’s direction is his han- 
dling of mass shots. In sequences showing what today we 
would call a night club, Bill reveals direction at its best. 
The place always is full of customers and waiters, tables 
are close together and a great deal is going on. So many 
of such scenes have their wooden spots — extras obviously 
at a loss to know what to do, waiters who do not know 
how to wait — bits here and there to remind us we are 
looking at a motion picture. Seiter gives us a beautiful 
exhibition of ordered disorder, of hurry and bustle, of 
patrons and waiters colliding at times, until all the scenes 
attain a greater degree of naturalness than I have seen in 
any other production containing such shots. In all other 
departments Seiter’s direction is equally able, the light, 
delicate touches being as impressive as the big dramatic 
moments. 

The story, which made the whole thing possible as ex- 
cellent screen fare, is a queer one. In essence it is the 
same gangster tale we have seen scores of times. As it 
approaches its climax we fairly can hear the saws hewing 
pieces out of previous pictures and the hammers pounding 
them together to form this one. But Allen Rivkin and 
Lamar Trotti are a pair of brilliant fellows. They knew 
they had only the usual position in which the police com- 
missioner finds himself when the master criminal proves 
too much for him, the same girl to save the hero’s neck at 
the last moment, and all the other old situations. So they 
made the police commissioner into an actual President of 
the United States, made McKinley’s assassination the 
high point of the climax, and picked other embellishments 
out of the pages of rather freshly printed history. If the 
result does not please you mightily, then there must be 
something the matter with you, for certainly there is 
nothing the matter with This Is My Affair. 


A Trifle Too Elemental 

MICHAEL O'HALLORAN, Republic production and release. As- 
sociate producer, Herman Schlom; directed by Karl Brown; screen 
play by Adele Buffington; from the Gene Stratton-Porter story; 
photographed by Jack Marta; film editor, Edward Mann; musical 
supervision, Alberto Colombo. Cast: Wynne Gibson, Warren Hull, 
Jackie Moran, Charlene Wyatt, Sidney Blackmer, Hope Manning, 
G. P. Huntley, Jr., Robert Greig, Helen Lowell, Vera Gordon, 
Pierre Watkin, Dorothy Vaughan, Bodil Rosing, Guy Usher. Run- 
ning time, 65 minutes. 

S TORY material admirably adapted to the require- 
- ments of the silent screen, does not stand up so well 
under talkie treatment. Gene Stratton Porter wrote 
for the yesterday of our rapidly changing psychology, 
of horse-and-buggy days when our emotions were sus- 
ceptible to more elemental appeal than we demand now. 
Adele Buffington wrote Michael O’Halloran into a tho- 
roughly satisfactroy shooting script, but in obeying Re- 
public’s request for an up-to-date setting, for automobiles 


Page Sixteen 


May 22, 1937 


instead of buggies, transplanted yesterday’s emotions in 
strange soil which does not produce the best results. 
Karl Brown’s direction reveals greater regard for the 
emotions themselves than for our changed attitude to- 
ward them, permitting members of his cast to give them 
the extravagant expression which used to please us when 
pictures were silent. In those days, when the screen did 
little more than supply our imaginations with sugges- 
tions which we fashioned to accommodate our own indi- 
vidual requirements in the way of entertainment, we 
provided our own interpretations of the situations, 
speeches and facial expressions of the players, it was easy 
to satisfy us as each of us saw in the picture what 
pleased him most. If the producers had presented the 
dated story in its original dress, it would have had 
greater audience appeal. 

N addition to the screen play by Miss Buffington, there 
is another excellent contribution to the picture by Al- 
berto Colombo whose musical score is woven expertly 
into the story pattern. Warren Hull, with everything 
to make him a big success in big pictures, gives a smooth, 
easy and natural performance. Sidney Blackmer, one of 
the most talented actors available to producers, is seen 
here in a short part which he makes most impressive. 
Wynne Gibson comes back to us after a long absence and 
is the victim of the most out-moded role in the picture, 
unreasonably unsympathetic until near the end, and then 
it goes too far in the other direction. However, Wynne 
is to be credited with doing as well with it as anyone 
could. G. P. Huntley, Jr. also is excellent, and Robert 
Greig’s butler is done admirably. There are two clever 
children, Charlene Wyatt and Jackie Moran. 

We old timers should extend thanks to Republic for 
letting us see Vera Gordon again. I thought the entire 
film industry had forgotten what a great actress she is. 
Helen Lowell, Dorothy Vaughan and Bodil Rosing are 
other character women who deserve mention. Hope 
Manning, new to the screen, shows distinctive promise. 

Andrew Stone Delivers 

THE GIRL SAID NO, Grand National. Producer-director, An- 
drew L. Stone; story, Andrew L. Stone; screen play, Betty Laidlaw 
and Robert Lively; photographer, Ira Morgan; musical director, 
Arthur Kay. Cast: Irene Hervey, Robert Armstrong, Paula Stone, 
William Danforth, Vera Ross, Vivion Hart, Ed Brophy, Harry Tyler, 
Richard Rogers, Frank Moulan, Josef Swickard, Arthur Kay, Horace 
Murphy, Bert Roach, Allan Rogers, Max Davidson, Carita Crawford. 

ERE is one whose entertainment value I do not feel 
myself competent to judge. The first stage attraction 
I ever saw was a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 
H. M. S. Pinafore. It was given in a hall over a furni- 
ture store in Orillia, Ontario, where I was born. Since 
that time I have been a devoted Gilbert and Sullivan fan. 
I can recite the words of a score or more of Gilbert’s 
lyrics, and can hum — off key, of course — the music Sulli- 
van wrote for them and for a couple of score more. So, 
you see, when a picture comes along and gives me bits 
from a half dozen of my favorite light operas, played and 
sung as excellently as they are in The Girl Said No — 
well, I practically go nuts, and, for the life of me, can- 
not believe you would fail to be as delighted with it as I 


was. I never have seen Mikado scenes staged and sung 
more effectively than we have them here. There is a 
swing to the Sullivan music which should appeal to the 
current taste, and, of course, there never has been a lib- 
rettist to compare with Gilbert. 

“Written and Directed by Andrew Stone,” the credits 
read. Although it is half a dozen years since I have seen 
him, I recall the earnest young man who used to call on 
me and' reveal in his end of our discussions an intelligent 
grasp of screen fundamentals and his intense desire to 
give expression to his conception of them. The Girl Said 
No not only is worthy example of screen craftsmanship, 
but holds out promise of further important things we 
can expect to come from the same young man. His first 
feature-length offering in no particular suggests an ama- 
teur’s tentative approach to a big job. Both in story and 
direction it is an excellent piece of work, an even balance 
being maintained between its various phases, humor, ro- 
mance, and musical interludes being presented with equal 
authority. Put Andrew Stone down as a young man who 
will bear watching. 

HE series of such pictures based on outstanding musi- 
cal themes which it is Stone’s intention to make for 
Grand National release should find great favor by the 
public. The music has solid worth and Stone may be re- 
lied upon to write stories worthy of it. In this first one 
he presents four artists with long training in the light 
operas and with singing and acting ability to do full jus- 
tice to them. Unless you are constituted’ weirdly that you 
cannot see merit in the Sullivan music or humor in the 
Gilbert lines, you by all means should see The Girl Said 
No. The large preview audience applauded it heartily, 
and I have heard enough preview applause to know in this 
instance it was sincere. 

Irene Hervey was an admirable choice for the leading 
feminine part. Hard-boiled in the gold'-digger phase of 
her characterization, tender in her romantic scenes, al- 
ways pleasant to look at, possessed of a singing voice 
worth listening to, she responded to Stone’s direction so 
intelligently that her performance is by long odds the best 
of her screen career. Bob Armstrong reverts again to his 
habit of reading his lines much too loudly, and as all the 
other players read theirs in ordinary conversational tones, 
the presumption is that the director found it impossible 
to get Bob to pay more attention to the meaning of his 
dialogue and less to an effort to see how much noise he 
could make with it. Edward Brophy, Harry Tyler, Rich- 
ard Tucker, Paula Stone are among others who acquit 
themselves with distinction. All the performances reflect 
credit on Stone’s direction. Betty Laidlaw and Robert 
Lively wrote an excellent screen play, Louis J. Rachmil 
designed an imposing production and Ira Morgan photo- 
graphed it artistically. A big share of the picture’s suc- 
cess is due to the masterly musical direction of Arthur 
Kay. 

Missed Opportunities 

HOTEL HAYWIRE, Paramount production and release. Directed 
by George Archainbaud; produced by the General Manager's 
office; screen play and original story by Preston Sturges; photo- 
graphed by Henry Sharp; musical direction by Boris Morros; art 
direction by Hans Dreier and Robert Odell; film editor, Arthur 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seventeen 


Schmidt; assistant director, Stanley Goldsmith; interior decorations 
by A. E. Freudeman. Cast: Leo Carrillo, Lynne Overman, Mary 
Carlisle, Benny Baker, Spring Byington, George Barbier, Porter Hall, 
Collette Lyons, John Patterson, Terry Ray, Nick Lukats, Josephine 
Whittell, Guy Usher, Lucien Littlefield, Chester Conklin. Running 
time, 66 minutes. 

FAST moving farce comedy of amusing situations 
and good performances. If your aural nerves can 
stand the noise it makes, your sense of humor should keep 
you entertained for the hour it takes to unwind Hotel 
Haywire. There will be nothing in it for you, however, 
if you begin to think while it is unwinding. It is designed 
solely to provide you with some comfortable giggles if 
you can find no other way in which to dispose of an idle 
hour. George Archainbaud directed with as much skill 
as the script gave him opportunities to display, Para- 
mount mounted it adequately, Boris Morros provided 
some scattered doses of good music, and Henry Sharp 
came through with first class photography. Preston 
Sturges wrote an amusing screen play, but apparently 
forgot all about Benny Baker and a spry miss named Col- 
lette Lyons, until someone reminded him they were to be 
included among the players. So he proceeded to stick 
them on the outside, like a brake on a wheel to keep it 
from going too fast. They have nothing to do with the 
story but are successful as brakes to slow its progress 
whenever they appear. 

Paramount at last realized what Lynne Overman has 
made apparent in each of the many small parts he has 
played — that he is one of the cleverest comedians avail- 
able to pictures. It is an old plaint of the Spectator 
that Hollywood should cease exploring the world for 
fresh talent and develop what it already has on hand. 
Overman would be today one of the best box-office bets 
in the business if some producer had been wise enough to 
see his possibilities as a comedian when he first appeared 
on the screen. And he is only one of the scores of clever 
people with box-office possibilities one can spot in small 
parts in almost every picture. In Hotel Haywire Spring 
Byington reveals comedy talents which in no way impair 
the charm of her personality. 

But the outstanding feature of this Paramount offer- 
ing which anyone with an ounce of picture brains can 
recognize is the opportunity it gave its producers to make 
a motion picture. It is a comedy of situations which cries 
aloud for expression by the camera. Instead 1 , it is a con- 
stant chatter from beginning to end, and there are not a 
dozen clever lines in it to justify the dialogue treatment 
given it. It keeps its audience on edge to catch what is be- 
ing said; makes it afraid to laugh too much lest it will 
miss some story point in a speech. And nine-tenths of 
the speeches do not contain anything which could not 
have been expressed better by the camera. 

That current screen offerings contain too much talk is 
apparent to the dullest person who thinks in terms of the 
screen. Paramount as an organization has made more 
pictures than any other producing company, yet its activi- 
ties for a quarter of a century apparently have not taught 
it to recognize real motion picture material in a story it 
is about to film. While I laughted heartily at many of 
the amusing situations in Hotel Haywire, I wept men- 
tally over the treatment accorded it. It so easily could 


have been made a brilliant comedy, one which could have 
pointed the road back to cinematic sanity for the entire 
film industry — a quiet comedy which gave its audience 
little to listen to and much to look at; which permitted 
it to laugh without fear of missing anything; which was 
a mental rest instead of mental exertion. Producers are 
blaming everyone but themselves for the poor box-office 
returns from the ordinary run of pictures, not being wise 
enough to know it is their own lack of screen wisdom 
which threatens the industry with grave financial com- 
plications. 

Another Comes from Russia 

REVOLUTIONISTS. Produced by Mosfilm, Moscow, U.S.S.R. Di- 
rected by Vera Stroyeva. Cast: B. V. Shchukin, N. P. Khmelev, K. 
I. Tarasova, V. P. Maretskaya. 

Reviewed by Edward LeVeque 

/ went to see this picture intent upon comparing its 
technic with our Hollywood product, but it was so 
absorbing that it dragged me into oblivion, and only 
with painful difficulty did I occasionally manage to 
withdraw my attention to appraise it with an analytic 
mind. Surprising, but these Russians seem to be able to 
contrive honest to goodness entertainment without re- 
sorting to smut or to cute antics of drunken sots. 

The story is episodic, embracing a period of ten years, 
and deals with the first stages of marxism in Imperial 
Russia up to the outbreak of the unsuccessful revolution 
of 1906; and the activities of a handful of humanitarian 
revolutionists who, although constantly facing exile and 
death, nearly succeed in crumbling the foundation of a 
mighty empire. 

But it is not its historical phase which makes this 
reproduction so engrossing, since it is not a glamorous 
or romantic epoch for popular appeal ; its fascination is 
due to its illusion of frank realism ; and because we be- 
come intimately acquainted with the principal characters 
to the extent that we cannot conceive them as mere act- 
ors playing parts. In fact, reality is so consistently main- 
tained, that when the working expectant mother speaks 
of her unborn child, we do not question it, as we do with 
many of our expectant screen mothers, who, even in the 
last stages, remain as wasp-waisted as slim debutantes. 
This working mother, however, was perfectly natural 
and proper. The only characterization which at times 
struck a false note, was the irascible chair-warming of- 
ficer, who, in an obvious attempt at mirth, would choke 
with his own words. 

The camera, as in most Russian pictures, maintains 
the mood with a monotonously heavy hand ; and the 
mood being one of drabness and despair, was mercilessly 
accentuated until one feels like tearing it asunder to help 
liberate those whom it so ruthlessly crushes, which is 
exactly the sympathy it is intended to draw from the be- 
holder; sympathy for the liberation of an oppressed peo- 
ple steeped in superstition. 

The assemblage or cutting is at times startling because 
of its abrupt choppiness. Our Hollywood trained cut- 
ters seem to excel all others in smoothness of continuity. 

The Hollywood theory of sound is apparently that 
everything must be heard. If a letter is tom open we 
hear the rip of the paper, and in a scuffle every thud and 



Page Eighteen 


May 22, 1937 


bump, even if these sounds have no significance what- 
soever upon the story. Not so the Russians; they use 
sound cautiously, and outside of the dialogue, they em- 
ploy it to intensify or highlight some particular bit of 
dramatic action. As far as I can remember — as I said 
before, I became lost in the story — I was not conscious 
of that steady, crackling of incidental sounds so preval- 
ent in our pictures. 

The remarkable part is that this forcible and virile 
picture was directed by a young woman. 

Night of Nausea 

NIGHT OF MYSTERY, Paramount production and release. Di- 
rected by E. A. Dupont; screen play by Frank Partos and Gladys 
Unger; based on the novel, THE GREENE MURDER CASE, by Har- 
ry Fischbeclt; musical direction by Boris Morros; film editor, James 
Smith; art direction by Hans Dreier and Earl Hedrick; sound by 
Walter Oberst and Louis Mesenkop; interior decoration by A. E.' 
Freudeman; assistant director, Hal Walker. Cast: Grant Richards, 
Roscoe Karns, Helen Burgess, Ruth Coleman, Elizabeth Patterson, 
Harvey Stephens, June Martel, Terry Ray, Purnell Pratt, Colin Tap- 
ley, James Bush, Ivan Simpson, Greta Meyer, Leonard Carey, Nora 
Cecil, George Anderson. Running time, 76 minutes. 

Reviewed by Paul Jacobs 

r HERE are occasions in the comparatively placid life 
of a reviewer when he wishes he were either a pro- 
ducer or a hermit. While reviewing Night of Mystery, I 
wanted to be a producer just long enough to fire the di- 
rector, scrap the film, punch the boy-scripter, spank his 
lady co-writer and insult the editor. After that I just 
wanted to be a hermit and never see another of Para- 
mount’s “best show in town.” It is a gorgeous example 
of exactly how not to make a picture. The strength of 
the whole plot rests on the careful build-up of the under- 
lying psychology of a diseased mind. Without complete 
understanding of this, the story is pointless. It should 
have been fully developed by the camera. The brilliant 
script allowed it about two minutes of hasty dialogue. 

And the cutting must have been done as a gag. At 
least it is a remarkable expression of what D. W. Griffith 
once referred to as a “cutting drunk.” Which is to say, in 
the kindliest way possible, that a child' with a pair of 
shears could do better. And thence to the characterizing, 
which also violates all laws of audience-reaction. We are 
made to hate the women who suddenly becomes our lov- 
able heroine; we fall desperately in love with the only 
sweet girl in the picture, only to find that she is a nasty 
imbecile and a ruthless killer. Eventually these high-paid 
writers may learn that inconsistent characterization is re- 
sented by everyone in the audience as a personal form of 
cheating. 

HE detective, pride of the force, obviously is an es- 
caped idiot. And so forth. What is the use of further 
dissection? However, from this morbid welter there 
emerges a few thin rays of sunshine. Grant Richards, as 
Philo Vance, genuinely is good despite his three-fold han- 
dicap of poor direction, inexperience, and the formidable 
precedent created by such masters as Wm. Powell, War- 
ren William and Basil Rathbone. If he is given a half- 
chance, Mr. Richards will make a name for himself in 
films. 


Roscoe Karns, fortunately, is too good to be submerged ; 
his portrayal is competent. Too bad he is not given some- 
thing his talents deserve. Helen Burgess gives a top job 
of acting; considering the direction, or lack of it, her 
work is outstanding. And that goes for Elizabeth Pat- 
terson, a grand trouper. Harvey Stevens seems to recog- 
nize the futility of wasting his efforts, but his perform- 
ance is good. Purnell Pratt is his usual dependable self; 
and Colin Tappley gives us a perfect bit. His appearance 
was much too short. Greta Meyer turns in an excellent 
job. And Ivan Simpson remains the perfect mystery 
butler. 

Too bad that impossible writing, incompetent direction 
and preposterous editing must doom the fine efforts of 
top-notch actors. But that is Hollywood. By the way, 
in case I have not made the idea clear — do not see A 
Night of Mystery. It is not mystery; it is nausea. 

Film Industry’s Latest Folly 

ED Kann, in a recent issue of Motion Picture Daily, 
makes some pertinent remarks about the latest reve- 
lation of how low the film industry can go in the way 
of what any other industry would characterize as an ex- 
hibition of rotten taste. Kann raises about the same ob- 
jection to the employment of stripteasers as the Spectat- 
or has made, and winds up his argument with these para- 
graphs : 

It Is a very hot potato the industry is playing with. King 
Vidor made the Los Angeles Times the other day with a rather 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nineteen 


extended beef about censorship restrictions. Supervisors, here 
and there, are yelling because the lines are drawing tighter. 
They may not be responsible, but certainly their principals are 
for drawing the noose closer. In a vague and general way, 
Hollywood wonders why it cannot do this or that. Ut rends 
the atmosphere with trivia and overlooks the overtones which, 
sooner or later and somewhere along the line, will sound oft 
ominously on major errors such as the wholesale plunge into 
trouble, this time labeled striptease. 

Producers, by their own voluntary action and if they can re- 
call, put teeth in the production code three years ago. Com- 
pelled to turn away from old fetishes, they conceived new ones 
which evidenced themselves in product on a plane never be- 
for attained. There is no actual violation, it is true, in em- 
ploying striptease performers. As a matter of fact, probably 
they will be overdressed in a clumsy gesture to dodge criti- 
cism. Yet those who know the background, at the same time, 
will know what to look for and imagine it if they cannot find 
it. The newspapers of the nation know the circumstances 
and may be expected to report them. 


ROBERT CRANDALL 

Supervising Editor 

"HOLLYWOOD COWBOY" 

“Smart Editing by Robert Crandall.” 
— Hollywood Spectator. 

Starting "WINDJAMMER" 


Leonard Goldstein 


Associate Producer 

‘Hollywood Cowboy’ 


Hollywood cowboy rides, and he rides in a western 
that is swell entertainment. The great majority 
will welcome it as it has all the stuff the masses go 
for. Those affiliated with the production can take 
bows for contributing to a really entertaining film. 

— Daily Variety. 

Here is a western that breaks all precedent by 
achieving originality while preserving all the hal- 
lowed ingredients — all, that is, except gunplay and 
killings. It also develops an unusually high con- 
tent of natural comedy from its unforced situations. 
The result is exceptionally good action entertain- 
ment. — Hollywood Reporter. 


EWING SCOTT 

DIRECTED 

GEORGE O'BRIEN 

IN 

"HOLLYWOOD COWBOY" 

Original Screen Play by 
DAN JARRETT and EWING SCOTT 

Hollywood Spectator: 

“The versatile Mr. Scott also directed. 

That a director collaborated on his 
own story is nothing new ; but that 
a director writes a good story, or that 
a writer does a good job of direction, 
is news . . . Mr. Scott knows the rare 
combination of dramatic and cine- 
matic values . . . He is on his way to 
the top.” 


DAN JARRETT* 

Original and Screen Play 

‘Hollywood Cowboy’ 

*In Collaboration 

Dan Jarrett and Ewing Scott, for example, 
give us a swell story, about the idolized 
film cowboy who goes western and shows 
the cow-country how cowpunchers should 
punch their cows. Not content with this 
twist, Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Scott mix in 
cleverly a dash of racketeering, eastern fla- 
vor, and a shot of aeronautics — all blended 
to taste. — Hollywood Spectator. 

Dan Jarrett and Ewing Scott devised the 
story and developed it exceptionally well. 

— Hollywood Reporter. 



Page Twenty 


Hollywood Spectator 


May 22, 1937 


George A. Hirlim an 

PRODUCED . . . 

“Hollywood Cowboy” 

Starring George O’Brien 
For R.K.O. Release 

NOW IN PRODUCTION . . . 

“Windjammer” 

Another 

George O’Brien Picture 
For R.K.O. Release 



Hollywood 


20 

CENTS 


S P E CTATOR 


Twelfth Year 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Number 8 


JULY 17, 1937 


Volume 12 


Qene Lockhart Writes on 
“Is It Acting?” 

Bert Harlen Pinch Hits 
For The Editor 

A Theory of Imaginative Sound in 
Motion Pictures is Advanced 
by Edward LeVeque 

THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA * EASY LIVING * TOPPER * PARADISE ISLE 
WAR LORD * THE TOAST OF NEW YORK * THE SINGING MARINE 
LOVE IN A BUNGALOW * HOOSIER SCHOOLBOY 
WINDJAMMER * SUPER SLEUTH 

THE SPECTATOR SUBSCRIPTION LIST IS THE BLUE BOOK OF MOTION PICTURE BRAINS 


Page Two 


July 17, 1937 


THE EDITOR’S MOST UNEASY CHAIR 

By BERT HARLEN 


HILE my esteemed editor is basking on the beach 
at Santa Barbara, inviting his soul among the red- 
woods, and searching the desert stars, it is my lot to sit 
in his easy chair — suddenly become most uneasy — and to 
fill the pages of his department with such pertinent com- 
ment as I can contrive. Believe me, this is a task which 
I approach with humility. I must confess it is only with 
undertaking to serve his function that I have come com- 
pletely to realize how much a part of the Hollywood 
scene Welford Beaton is — the extent of his personal con- 
tacts and his almost clairvoyant ability to anticipate what 
goes on in the film city — or fully to appreciate the in- 
sight with which he treats of cinematic matters, as well 
as the grace with which he expresses himself. I can only 
beg the reader’s indulgence for my own simple com- 
mentary, appearing in this one issue, which I know can- 
not approach in merit that of my superior. Persistence, 
however, is a great virtue, and charity is an even greater 
one; and if you, kind reader, can be persuaded to ap- 
proach these pages with both, it is not impossible that 
you may find some small amusement or information on 
them. 

At any rate, I hope that my esteemed editor is frisk- 
ing, lolling, and soul-searching like all get-out, and hav- 
ing a grand time doing it. 

* * * 

NT ERIN G the outer lobby of a theatre the other 
evening I abruptly stepped on Barbara Stanwyck’s 
face! Yes, there it was looming large beneath my feet, 
and I had narrowly missed scuffing Joel McCrea in the 
eye. The features of both were emblazoned in full color 
across nearly the entire floor of the lobby, along with the 
admonition that Internes Can't Take Money. 

This masterly stroke of exploitation should be seen by 
all showmen, that it might inspire them to greater efforts. 
There are display media about theatres that are shame- 
fully neglected — great expanses of wall on either side of 
the audience utterly barren except for a few architectural 
furbelows, and all that carpeted space in the inner lobby 
with nothing on it but a few stoves and automobiles to 
be given away. Opportunities are boundless. As a further 
illustration, the dress on the girl in the ticket booth (and, 
of course, the booth itself) could be lettered up to boost 
the picture, instead of having that flower design. Even 
the idle planes of her face are suggestive. And when 
these possibilities are exhausted, why not paint up the 
street a bit? 

Remember that benighted era when picture theatres, 
at least the better ones, prided themselves on a certain 
taste and dignity in their display and general manage- 
ment, before the modern methods were acquired from 
burlesque houses? And remember those absurd forty- 
piece symphony orchestras in the pit, and those silly bal- 
let dancers on the stage? Still, I’m told pictures used to 
make money in those days. 


N DOUBT ED LY the most convincing corpse I have 
seen in pictures is that impersonated by Henry Daniell 
in The Thirteenth Chair, who either through a rare tech- 
unique or extraordinary luck with lighting and camera 
angles managed to convey a good measure of the awe and 
terror actually surrounding a dead man. Why are dead 
men usually so unconvincing on the screen ? The fact 
that we know they are not really dead is no answer, for 
our faith in drama, that “willing suspension of disbelief” 
as Coleridge puts it, leads us to accept all other states of 
man without question, providing such states are por- 
trayed with reasonable accuracy. Of course, most of the 
dead men in films are not very artfully contrived, a curi- 
ous animation remaining on their faces, if indeed their 
tummies do not fluctuate ever so slightly; but the better 
corpses are arranged with considerable skill. 

The only actually dead man I have seen in pictures, 
at least at close range, was “Baby Face” Nelson, whose 
sudden appearance was shocking and terrifying in a way 
I shall never forget. I am told that faintings were com- 
mon in theatres where the film was exhibited. Can it be 
that the camera, noted for “photographing the mind,” 
had caught and magnified some physiological or psycho- 
logical characteristics of death which were too subtle yet 
to have come within the scope of human analysis? 

* * * 

HERE are probably more crookedly-hung pictures in 
Hollywood than in any other city in the world, be- 
cause of the vast quantities signed and dispatched by the 
cinema actors in courting favor, and the penchant the 
natives have for keeping them displayed in neat black 
frames on all available wall space. As a harmony-loving 
soul, I can lose sleep by thinking of the thousands and 
thousands of black-framed poses that must be hanging on 
walls all over town a quarter of an inch to an inch 
askew. There is a boulevard drug store boasting a high 
wall littered with the things, and all of them slightly 
cockeyed. I can’t even grab coffee there without getting 
“the jitters.” One Saturday afternoon when I was alone 
in the Spectator office I went about and straightened 
our collection — gently tilted Janet Gaynor up half an 
inch, leveled Charlie Chaplin, and gave good old Bill 
Hart an especially precise adjustment. But already they 
are all askew again, and I don’t know when I shall get 
around to straightening them. 

* * * 

N a truly anomalous position is the radio actor in Hol- 
lywood, whose vocal dramatic renditions go out over 
the air lanes along with those of stellar film performers 
in condensations of motion picture scripts and other radio 
fare. He has a brief half hour of glory, his histrionics 
commanding as much attention from the millions of 
listeners as those of the greatest celebrity with whom he 
may be playing. The performance concluded, the film 
star smiles or murmurs a benign good night, steps into a 





Hollywood Spectator 


Page Three 


glossy limousine, and is speeded away to an estate in Bev- 
erly Hills or Flintridge. The radio actor climbs into 
his ’34 Chrysler roadster and drives to a small “Bohem- 
ian” apartment, his performance already a thing forgot- 
ten, except perhaps by a few of his colleagues or a radio 
columnist who may deign to mention it the next morn- 
ing. 

As frequently as not the fellow is not even given mic- 
rophone credit for his performance. And a voice, unless 
given an extraordinary build-up, apparently has diffi- 
culty in registering in the listener’s memory. One would 
think, however, that motion picture producers, assertedly 
in despair over the scarcity of talent, would direct some 
attention to the voices heard constantly as an accompani- 
ment to the performances of their stars. That they don’t 
is another of the curious paradoxes of our topsy-turvy 
town. 

An actor friend of mine “in radio” has, during the 
past two years, played with practically every top-notch 
actor and actress in the film industry, including a per- 
formance of the male lead opposite a female star doing 
a part which had won her the Academy Award — and out 
of it all the fellow hasn’t as yet even got a screen test! 
True, he is not a collar-ad boy, but he could hold his 
own in that respect. “Nothing is so dead as a past radio 
performance,” he says. 

The situation is all the more remarkable when the re- 
cent influx to the studios of actors from eastern radio 
programs is considered, Don Ameche, Marian and Jim 
Jordan, and others, who have been fortunate enough to 
receive good build-ups on the eastern programs. The 
adaptability of radio performers to the screen should 
have been established definitely by the signing of these 
players. Yet the only radio actor of my acquaintance on 
the home ground who has reached featured position on 
the screen is a character man, definitely a gangster type, 
who was clever enough to secure himself some parts in 
local little theatres, where he could be seen as well as 
heard. 

0.N.E would think that the smallness of number of the 
radio performers in ,this city would be a circumstance in 
their favor for finding screen recognition. Actually most 
of the radio work in these parts, including electrical 
transcription programs, is done almost entirely by a small 
coterie of actors, scarcely two dozen all told. The voice 
being the sole instrument of a broadcast performance, ra- 
dio producers attach a great deal of importance to it, and 
it seems that the little black demon, the microphone, plays 
favorites. A very pleasing and expressive natural speak- 
ing voice may be sucked in by the little disc and whisked 
out to the countless loudspeakers as thin, nasal, or muf- 
fled — it’s a matter of physics. 

The discrepancy between the fortunes of players en- 
gaged in the two mediums here is further accentuated by 
the fact that radio actors in this city receive, at least in 
most productions, but a fraction of the salary paid those 
in Chicago and New York. A performance on a chain 


broadcast in those cities pays generally from seventy- 
five dollars to one hundred dollars and better, with local 
broadcasts running around twenty-five dollars. An actor 
in demand can average an income of between three and 
four hundred dollars a week, which is a salary compar- 
able with that of many screen players. But in Los Angeles 
the chain programs pay around twenty-five dollars and the 
local programs as low as five. There are a few trans- 
continental broadcasts that pay salaries comparable with 
the eastern shows, but they are exceptional. In view of 
the smallness of their coterie, it would appear that the 
local lads and lassies aren’t being especially clever. 

/ HEAR tell, however, that Paula Winslowe, she of the 
extraordinarily lovely radio voice, and a gifted trouper 
to boot, following her ascent to featured position on the 
A1 Jolson, Joe Penner, and other programs, has been 
approached for screen tests out Hollywood way. La 
Winslowe was a colleague of mine in the same racket 
some moons ago, when I was very young and sometimes 
very foolish, and before the delights of the literary life 
and its attending contemplation of the profounder as- 
pects of the draw-ma, engaged me. Good luck, “Win- 
nie.” 

• * * 

O NE of the most engaging manifestations of the new 
trend in motion pictures toward what Philip Scheuer of 
the Times characterizes as “flippancy,” is to be seen in I 
Met Him In Paris. Just how the tendency started is im- 
possible to say. The origin of a psychological movement 
among a people can never be conclusively traced. Noel 
Coward is probably more directly responsible for this one 
than any other individual. But it is a sign of healthy 
thinking among people, it represents a strong approach 
to life, a defiance, an ability to see life in perspective 
and a refusal to take trivialities seriously. The silliness 
and stupidity in some pictures following the trend is due 
to the fact that the true spirit has been counterfeited. 
This is because the characteristic behavior manifestations 
of the spirit are tacked on as externals, and do not ema- 
nate from within the characters. Any dramatic mode is 
violated when characters are depended to the action 
rather than the action to the characters. 

* * * 

/ . MEANDER too (with apologies to my esteemed 
editor) : People on the screen dine at the most fascinat- 
ing places. . . . Are there really such restaurants in real 
life, where veil-tailed goldfish swim about one in aquar- 
iums, and lights glisten on carved ebony? . . . When we 
have out-of-town guests who want to dine at a distinc- 
tive place, we generally resort to Olvera Street, where I 
get indigestion. . . . Tyrone Power hasn’t appeared in a 
bath tub yet. . . . What’s become of Georgia Hale? . . . 
I never play the piano well after having pounded the 
typewriter for long . . . wonder why? . . . Martha Raye 
could knock over a good emotional part like nobody’s 
business. This is a pet theory of mine. ... I have no 
pets, not a single dog, nor any ducks. Once I had a pet 
duck called “Pepsie” but he was scared to death of 
everybody. 


Z 


Page Four 


July 17, 1937 


Some Late 'Previews 


Muni’s Zola a Masterpiece 


THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA, Warners production and release. 
Hal B. Wallis, executive producer; Henry Blanke, associate producer; 
stars Paul Muni; directed by William Dieterle; screen play by Nor- 
man Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald and Geza Herczeg; story by Heinz 
Herald and Geza Herczeg; photographed by Tony Gaudio; music 
by Max Steiner; art direction, Anton Grot; film editor, Warren Low; 
assistant director, Russ Saunders; costumes, Milo Anderson and Ali 
Hubert; dialogue direction, Irving Rapper; makeup, Perc Westmore; 
musical direction, Leo F. Forbstein. Supporting players: Gale Sond- 
ergaard, Joseph Schildkraut, Gloria Holden, Donald Crisp, Erin 
O'Brien-Moore, John Litel, Henry O'Neill, Morris Carnovsky, Louis 
Calhern, Ralph Morgan, Robert Barrat, Vladimir Sokoloff, Grant 
Mitchell, Harry Davenport, Robert Warwick, Charles Richman, Gil- 
bert Emery, Walter Kingsford, Paul Everton, Montagu Love, Frank 
Sheridan, Lumsden Hare, Marcia Mae Jones, Florence Roberts, 
Dickie Moore, Rolla Gourvitch. Running time, 123 minutes. 


f\NE of those great biographical films, the Warner 
\J Brother artists seem to excel in spreading on the 


0 


UITE as remarkable is the performance of Joseph 
Schildkraut as the unfortunate Dreyfus. In the hands of 
a less brilliant artist the part would have been a minor, 
negative one. Scarcely a score of lines are read by Schild- 
kraut, and his greatest scenes are close-ups, his features 
immobile, only his eyes alive, yet several times the large 
preview audience rewarded the close-ups with bursts of 
appreciative applause. In all my picture reviewing of 


over a dozen years I cannot recall such physically static 
scenes having been rewarded in a like manner. 

As the wife of Dreyfus, Gale Sondergaard gives us 
another great performance which marks her as an artist 
of rare ability. She indulges in no heroics, sheds no tears, 
but in her quiet way registers powerfully her grief over 
the fate of her husband. As the wife of Zola, Gloria 
Holden is prominent among the group of people who 
tell the story. Donald Crisp also contributes a strong 
characterization, as do many more, the names being too 
numerous to mention individually. 

Max Steiner provided the picture with a score of out- 
standing merit, and Leo Forbstein directed it in a man- 
ner which makes it an important feature of the produc- 
tion. To the art direction of Anton Grot is to be credit- 
ed one of the most visually impressive mountings any 
picture has had. And mention must be made of the able 
manner in which Warren Low has edited the long film. 
The costumes designed by* Milo Anderson also are a big 
factor in adding to the authenticity and visual attractive- 
ness of the scenes. 


screen — another feather in the cap of Henry Blanke, who 
in the past two years has given us more outstanding pic- 
tures than any other production executive anywhere. And 
again the team of William Dieterle and Paul Muni 
whose brilliant contributions to it made Pasteur one of 
the most impressive productions ever presented on the 
screen. To Warner Brothers, vast credit for the hon- 
esty of their efforts to make The Life of Emile Zola one 
of the greatest pictures of all time. 

If you can be entertained by two hours of brilliant 
film craftsmanship in all departments, under no circum- 
stances must you miss Zola. It is mounted superbly and 
authentically, presenting graphically the Paris of Zola’s 
day which Tony Gaudio’s camera brings to us in a series 
of superb photographic masterpieces. Dieterle’s direction 
seems to have been inspired, and the members of his long 
cast responded to his enthusiasm with a series of brilliant 
performances. In no spot does the direction falter or a 
characterization betray a weak moment. 

Muni’s characterization is an amazing portrait of the 
great French writer. Never is it Muni we see on the 
screen — always Zola, the champion of the truth, the 
lover of justice, the foe of oppressors. It is a perform- 
ance which dignifies the screen as the greatest of all the 
arts and makes a sorry spectacle of Hollywood’s persistent 
effort to ape the waning stage. As much by suppression 
as by direct expression does Muni paint his vivid portrait. 
Every part of him is part of his performance, from his 
shuffling feet to the unruly mass of hair which adorns 
his head, his eyes mirroring his feelings, his voice carry- 
ing conviction, his gestures, as eloquent as the words he 
utters. 


YUHEN Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald and 
ff Geza Herczeg approached the task of writing the 
screen play they were under the handicap of having too 
much story material. To keep the busy life of Zola with- 
in the limits of a motion picture was no easy task. But 
they committed the fault of not balancing evenly their 
condensation and their elaboration. The result is a pic- 
ture which is too long for those who view pictures for 
their story content and not with an eye to its technical 
cinematic merit. Another difficulty the writers faced was 
the fact of our knowing at the outset what was going to 
happen. The Dreyfus Affair is history, and there can be 
no surprises in its retelling. For instance, we knew be- 
fore the picture started that Zola fought for justice for 
Dreyfus, hence the several scenes showing his first objec- 
tions to taking up the case served merely to delay action 
we knew was inevitable, and to that extent retarded the 
story. These scenes gave Muni an opportunity to dis- 
play his acting skill, but we view pictures for their story 
action and not as exhibitions of acting. 

The elaborate and brilliantly presented court room 
sequence was for the purpose of showing the unfairness 
of the trial of Zola. Witness after witness was used to 
register a fact which was planted by the first one. If 
the story had been fiction, so many witnesses might have 
been permissible, but as we knew in advance how the 
trial had ended, a hint of the unfairness would have been 
sufficient. Again, the imposing spectacle of Zola’s fun- 
eral prolongs the film unnecessarily. The story ends with 
his death and the funeral adds nothing to it as an ap- 
pendix to a story already told. I cannot see complete 
box-office success in the two-hour film, but the spots I 
have mentioned offer opportunities for cutting to bring 
it within reasonable limits. — W. B. 


m 


Para Presents Farcical Uproar 


EASY LIVING, Paramount. Producer, Arthur Hornblow, Jr.; di- 
rector, Mitchell Leisen; screen play, Preston Sturges; based on 
story by Vera Caspary; photographer, Ted Tetzlaff; special effects, 
Farciot Edouart; film editor, Doane Harrison; art director, Hans 
Dreier and Ernest Fegte; musical director, Boris Morros; costumes, 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


Travis Banton; assistant director, Edgar Anderson. Cast: Jean 
Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland, Luis Alberni, Mary Nash, 
Franklin Pangborn, Barlowe Borland, William Demarest, Andrew 
Tombes, Esther Dale, Harlan Briggs, William B. Davidson, Nora 
Cecil, Robert Greig. 

II THEN awards are distributed for the best this and that 
ff in pictures for 1937, Paramount should be given one 
for having presented the loudest production of the year. 
If you can stand the terrific and wholly unnecessary noise 
it makes, you will find Easy Living an amusing farce- 
comedy, played to the hilt by a capable cast, beautifully 
mounted by Paramount and kept moving swiftly by the 
direction of Mitchell Leisen. 

Pheston Sturges wrote an exceedingly clever screen 
play, one designed only to entertain and asking us to in- 
dulge him to the extent of entering into the fun of the 
thing and granting that everything could happen just as 
it is written into the script. Leisen interprets it broadly, 
but keeps just this side of slapstick except in the matter of 
the dialogue direction. There he goes, haywire. Intelligent 
direction of farce is to show reasonable people doing un- 
reasonable things in a reasonable way. For instance — we 
could not be entertained by a group of mentally deficient 
people doing ridiculous things. That is what we expect 
of them. But mentally alert people doing the same things 
would amuse us. 

Although the situations in Easy Living ask us to 
take quite a lot for granted, we meet it half way and 
accept what it offers as things which perhaps could happen. 
But we cannot agree that the people in the story would 
yell their heads off every time they spoke to each other. 
Edward Arnold is characterized as the third largest bank- 
er in New York, one whose word could make or break 
the market, yet he yells his way through the entire length 
of the film, noise being his only means of expression. We 
are indebted to him, however, for indulging only once in 
the insane bellow he ordinarily uses for laughter. Other 
characters als,o indulge in yelling until the din at times is 
terrific. If the picture had been presented with a sense 
of humor, the full value of the excellent screen play would 
have been developed and we would have had another My 
Man Godfrey or It Happened One Night. The stuff was 
in it, but it was lost in the uproar. 

Jean Arthur and Luis Alberni pretty well divide the 
picture between them, though Ray Milland, Franklin 
Pangborn and Robert Greig do some good work. Jean 
again demonstrates what an exceedingly clever girl she 
is. The Paramount art department outdid itself in pro- 
viding elaborate but artistic sets,. 

Put on your ear muffs and see Easy Living. It will give 
you many a good laugh. 

And now Mrs. Spectator and I are off to distant points 
to forget pictures for a couple of weeks. I leave the rest 
of the reviewing for this issue in the supercritical hands 
of Bert Harlen. — W. B. 


Twelve pictures scheduled to be made by Selznick In- 
ternational Pictures will cost $12,500,000, more than a 
million each. 


Reviews by Bert Harlen 

Novelty Amidst Story Troubles 

TOPPER, Roach-MGM. Producer, Hal Roach; associate pro- 
ducer, Milton H. Bren; director, Norman Z. McLeod; original novel, 
Thorne Smith; screen play, Jack Jevne, Eric Hatch and Eddie 
Moran; photographer, Norbert Brodine; photographic effects, Roy 
Seawright; film editor, William Terhune; music and lyrics, Hoagy 
Carmichael; art director, Arthur I. Royce. Castr Constance Ben- 
nett, Cary Grant, Roland Young, Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, 
Eugene Pallette, Arthur Lake, Hedda Hopper, Virginia Sale, 
Theodore Von Eltz, J. Farrell McDonald, Elaine Shepard, Doodles 
Weaver, Si Jenks, Three Hits and a Miss. 

A PERFECTLY grand “binge,” in which Constance 
/l Bennett and Cary Grant make the rounds of the 
night spots, imbibing and cavorting with rare good spirits, 
and sleep it off in their luxurious if rather bizzare road- 
ster parked on a main street, is the opening of Topper, 
and certainly it gets the comedy off to a good start. Con- 
stance Bennett and Cary Grant team delightfully as the 
madcap and wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Kerby, the per- 
formance of each complementing that of the other. The 
feminine star has never looked more attractive or played 
with greater zest. Norman McLeod has directed the 
“binge” with a subtle sense of humor, and it represents 
the new spirit of whimsicality in motion pictures at its 
best. 

From there on strange things begin to happen, for the 
film incorporates a novel idea in stories, an idea which is 
at once the picture’s most distinguishing feature and its 
greatest weakness. The gay but irresponsible young cou- 
ple, speeding to their Long Island estate, run off the 
road and are killed. Their spirits, however, leave their 
bodies and continue to carry on in the same madcap way 
through the rest of the picture. Most of their time is 
spent in doing one good deed in order to pass muster 
with St. Peter, neither being able to recall one. That 
deed, they have decided, will be the regeneration of one 
Cosmo Topper, played by Roland Young, who, though 
the head of a bank, is a sorrowfully hen-pecked husband, 
whose very existence has become a formula under the 
scrutiny of his demanding and conventional wife, Billie 
Burke. 


i HE carrying out of the Kerbys’ plans for Topper is 
made possible by the fact that they, as spirits, possess 
limited quantities of ectoplasm, which enables them to 
assume visible shape whenever they desire. Most of the 
time, however, they remain invisible, their presence be- 
ing made known by the sound of their voices, the myste- 
rious opening of doors, or the floating of objects through 
the air, which always scare spectators half out of their 
wits. This novel circumstance, which could be the source 
of a great deal of amusement if handled imaginatively 
and with taste, is much over-played in this picture. Some 
of the pranks of the invisible Kerbys are genuinely amus- 
ing, but many savor of slap-stick comedy, and others are 
downright silly. Moreover, there are far too many such 
incidents. They pad out the length of the picture, slow 
up the action, and disrupt the thread of the story. Some 
generous use of the editor’s shears might help consid- 
erably. 


Page Six 


July 17, 1937 


ANOTHER handicap to the story’s effectiveness, how- 
/lever, is the fact that we do not have much sympathy for 
the hen-pecked Topper. Perhaps it is because the spec- 
tacle of a man of his business position being dominated 
by a mouse-like wife seems a rather arbitrary situation. 
Perhaps it is because of a general boredom with hen- 
pecked husbands, since they are to be seen in so many 
pictures. At any rate, the Kerbys’ concern with Topper 
seems like a waste of time, and does not hold our inter- 
est, which lies primarily in the Kerbys themselves. Their 
long absences from the screen, together with their devo- 
tion to the interests of Topper when they are in the 
action, gives one the feeling that there is a void in the 
very middle of the film. Our interest in the story picks 
up, incidentally, toward the end of the picture, at a sea- 
side resort, when jealousy gives the center of interest back 
to the couple by occasioning a slight rift between them, 
a fact which might be suggestive if retakes are in order. 

The end of the picture, like the beginning, is thorough- 
ly engaging. The Kerbys are perched on the roof of 
Topper’s home like two elfins, taking in the reconciliation 
of Topper and his wife on terms of better understanding, 
going on below. In saying farewell to their friend they 
hang their heads downward from the roof and peer into 
the window, certainly a fantastic shot. 

Well — the idea for the film is good, if only some way 
could be found to patch up the middle portion so that a 
coherent and interesting story would result. One won- 
ders if the rambling incoherency of the present script is 
not due to the fact that the script was worked on by 
three writers, and taken from an original story by 
Thorne Smith — which makes a good many fingers in the 
pie. I cannot recall at the moment any first-rate script 
which was adapted by more than two writers. If two 
cannot make a coherent script out of the material at 
hand, by what logic does a producer conclude that three 
can ? 


AJOTH Roland Young and Billie Burke are at their 
respectively suave and saucy best. Alan Mowbray, play- 
ing a butler to Topper, has some of the best lines in the 
picture, and puts them across with distinction. Says he 
to Topper, following an escapade which has landed the 
latter in the headlines, “You have become a legend be- 
fore your time.” Eugene Pallette, Arthur Lake, Hedda 
Hopper, and Virginia Sale are well cast. A very unfunny 
aspect of the picture is the appearance of Tom Moore, 
Claire Windsor, Jack Mulhall and other former stars in 
uncredited bits. 

Deserving of a plume is Roy Seawright for his ingen- 
ious handling of the eerie photographic effects. Many of 
the fadings of the Kerbys were very deft. In one scene 
a rose is seen to move through the air, and in its course 
Constance Bennett materializes, holding it in her hand. 
Norbert Brodine was the general cinematographer. One 
song number is featured, “Old Man Moon,” written by 
Hoagy Carmichael, which has good rhythm but is not on 
a par with his best songs. Special mention should be 
made of the gowns, designed by Samuel M. Lange, 
which set off Miss Bennett with alluring effect, and Miss 
Burke with most frilly effect. 


Aspiration in the Tropics 

PARADISE ISLE, Monogram Pictures, Associate producer, Dor- 
othy Reid; director, Arthur Greville Collins; screen play, Marion 
Orth; from the Cosmopolitan story, THE BELLED PALM, by Allan 
Vaughan Elston; photographed by Gilbert Warrenton, A.S.C.; 
technical director, E. R. Hickson; recorded by William Wilmarth; 
film editor, Russell Schoengarth; assistant director, Harry Knight; 
special music by Sam Koki, Tuiteleleapaga, and Lani McIntyre and 
his Hawaiians; special effects by Fred Jackman. Cast: Movita, 
Warren Hull, William Davidson, John St. Polis, George Piltz, 
Pierre Watkin, Kenneth Harlan, Tau Mana, Malia Makua. 


JUjONOGRAM PICTURES, in carrying out its, as- 
lfl serted new policy of producing superior independent 
productions, could not have chosen a better locale for its 
initial “class” effort than the islands of the southern 
Pacific. Nature has provided these islands with features 
which are essentially good cinema material — the rhythm 
of the swaying palms, the lines of the gleaming and 
symetrical tree trunks rising obliquely out of the ground, 
the fantastic cloud formations set upon a clear sky, and 
above all a spirit of peace and escape. These features 
have been incorporated with fine effect in Paradise Isle. 
Some of Cameraman Gilbert Warrenton’s shots are truly 
magnificent. Many of the scenes of native life, especially 
those showing their dances, are at once beautiful and in- 
structive. Dorothy Reid, associate producer, who spent 
several months in the Samoan Islands supervising these 
portions of the production, can consider them a feather 
in her hat. Only certain defects in the story and in the 
structure of the film itself keep the picture from being 
the first-rate entertainment which it might have been. 

There is a note of idealism in the story, which con- 
cerns the love of a blind artist and a native girl, and, 
viewed as a whole, it has a winning simplicity, but it is 
marred by incredible and melodramatic incidents. Why, 
for instance, could not the young painter have come to 
the island to paint and lost his sight from a fever or 
some tropical malignancy, instead of being washed up on 
the shore a blind man, and apparently the sole survivor 
of a wrecked ship which was carrying him to Java, where 
a noted eye specialist was to operate on his eyes? A 
really jarring incident, however, was the mutual killing 
of the two villains, undoubtedly the most spectacular the 
drama has afforded since Hamlet and Laertes exchanged 
weapons — the first villain shoots his antagonist just as 
the latter throws an antiseptic in his eyes, which compels 
him to falter agonizingly to a conveniently handy swamp, 
where he sinks with trepidation and vociferousness to 
the depths. 


/li S for the construction of the film itself, the script and 
possibly the editing do not always serve the best interests 
of the story. For one thing, the succession of the shots 
is too rapid for the languid mood of the story. More- 
over, insufficient allowance was made in either the script 
or the editing of the scenes for character development and 
character motivation. A more frequent use of close-ups 
would have helped in this respect. Several of the situa- 
tions could stand considerable building. For instance, the 
introduction of the prostrate artist, weltering in the surf, 
seems almost casual, following abruptly on a scene in 
which we have barely made the acquaintance of the na- 
tive girl and her native lover. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


Viewed in its, entirety, however, Paradise Isle is a com- 
mendable attempt for an independent studio. Certainly 
it will give audiences more entertainment value for their 
money than many of the B productions from major 
studios. 


of American history. Through them the public, especially 
the generation now in school, may get a clearer concept 
of the factors which went into the growth of this coun- 
try, a knowledge which should be of value in their future 
conduct of it. 


fW OVITA, who is starred in the production, and is 
under contract to the company, gives a creditable account 
of herself in the picture. She is graceful, and extremely 
pretty in her dark make-up and native garb. She handles 
her native accent skillfully, keeps in character, and on 
several occasions could have evoked no little pathos if the 
succession of the shots had been more leisurely, making 
greater allowance for emotional growth. Not among her 
dramatic attributes, however, are the obviously penciled 
eyebrows, a phase of make-up concerning which Welford 
Beaton had some pointed words to say a few issues back. 

Warren Hull handles his lines with intelligence, and 
plays his difficult scenes with restraint and taste. The fact 
that he creates no great sympathy in the spectator can 
be attributed to other reasons than his performance. 
Movita and Hull sing pleasantly together a lilting theme 
song, one of the composers of which has a name that I 
cannot resist the temptation to put into print — Tuitele- 
leapaga. George Piltz as the girl’s native lover is thor- 
oughly in his element, apparently being a native himself, 
and Tua Mana and Malia Makua also fit effectively 
into the scene. Pierre Watkin plays with understanding 
his role of the doctor. William Davidson and John St. 
Poll’s are efficiently villainous, and Kenneth Harlan, mak- 
ing a brief appearance, seems to be fit. Robert Lee John- 
son directed. 


Who Is Toasted? 

THE TOAST OF NEW YORK, R.K.O. Producer. Edward Small; 
director, Rowland V. Lee; based on BOOK OF DANIEL DREW, by 
Bouck White, and ROBBER BARONS, by Matthew Josephson; screen 
play, Dudley Nichols, John Twist and Joel Sayre; music and lyrics, 
Nathaniel Shilkret, Allie Wrubel and L. Wolfe Gilbert; musical 
director, Nathaniel Shilkret; photographer, Peverell Marley; spe- 
cial effects, Vernon L. Walker; art director, Van Nest Polglase; 
associate, Carroll Clark; costumes, Edward Stevenson. Cast: Ed- 
ward Arnold, Cary Grant, Frances Farmer, Jack Oakie, Donald 
Meek, Thelma Leeds, Clarence Kolb, Billy Gilbert, George Irving, 
Frank M. Thomas, Russell Hicks, Oscar Apfel, Dudley Clements, 
Lionel Belmore, Robert McClung, Robert Dudley, Dewey Robinson, 
Stanley Fields, Gavin Gordon, Joyce Compton, Virginia Carroll. 

A GAIN the exponents of the philosophy of rugged in- 
** dividualism, who have played such a great part in the 
building of our country, come in for a cinematic expose. 
This time it is the period just following the Civil War 
that is dealt with. The Toast of New York chronicles 
the rise to power in the world of finance of Jim Fisk, a 
story ostensibly based on history. It is a colorful and 
frequently thought-provoking account of the man and of 
his era, however far it may have deviated from fact, and 
I suspect that the deviation is considerable. Fisk as por- 
trayed is certainly a shrewd and daring fellow, nearly 
succeeding in cornering all the gold in the United States, 
maintaining his own regiment of soldiers, and generally 
wielding a dexterous set of teeth in a dog-eat-dog world. 
I have no doubt, however, that the film has, a certain sig- 
nificance as cinematic fare, along with other expose films 


Appearing together again in the picture are Edward 
Arnold and Frances Farmer, who registered well in 
Come and Get It. I feel obliged to indulge in another 
of those odious comparisons and record that neither is 
seen to quite as good advantage in this film ; nor is, the 
period recreated with the same insight. Perhaps it is be- 
cause we are too far away from the earlier era. We tend 
to look back upon a period as long ago as the Civil War 
and color it with fancy, to regard it as quaint. This is 
exactly what The Toast of New York does. It paints, a 
bright-hued, sometimes flamboyant, picture of the era on 
the one hand, while asking us to accept an expose of 
some of its more sordid aspects on the other, which makes 
for a discrepancy in viewpoint in the film. 

PrODUCTION values are lavished on the picture, 
there is a strong cast, and Director Rowland V. Lee has 
seen that the story progresses smoothly. The fact that 
the film, despite several exciting episodes, and some well 
built suspense toward the climax, is lacking in the degree 
of “punch,” of emotional stimulus, which we ordinarily 
expect from a feature picture of its caliber — this fact can 
be ascribed mainly to the discrepancy in viewpoint analyz- 
ed above and to the film’s concern with finance, a sub- 
ject not usually very romantic in drama. True, it has 
been us,ed as a background for very romantic persons, but 
if the details of transactions are played up, especially the 
workings of the stock market, about which few persons 
not actively involved in commercial enterprise are well 
informed, the material tends to be dull. 

The romantic interest in The Toast of New York is 
figuratively held in the back seat, since Frances Farmer 
is not in love with her benefactor, Arnold, and both she 
and Cary Grant are too loyal to their mutual friend to 
betray him by recognizing their love for each other. This 
circumstance makes Miss Farmer’s role rather negative; 
and the role is made even more so by the fact that her 
character’s theatrical career, despite the fortune devoted 
to promoting it, is scarcely sensational, the audience ris- 
ing in angry protest against the prodigality of its backer, 
who controls a good deal of their money, on the opening 
night. All of which leaves one to wonder who, accord- 
ing to the implication of the title, is toasted. Certainly 
Arnold is not, on the contrary being vehemently chased 
out of town. Perhaps it is subtle irony the title drives at. 
But getting back to Miss Farmer’s role — little attention 
is devoted to her activities in the theatre, except for some 
spasmodic shots of her show, a musical affair done in the 
most trumped-up and over-elaborate modern fashion, 
which makes the scenes obviously out of spirit with the 
rest of the film. What opportunity there is in such a 
stage production to gratify her desire to be “a great 
actress” I cannot perceive. At any rate, Miss Farmer 
really has little to do but look pretty and moody, both of 
which she does well. And I still think she has one of the 
most interesting voices in pictures. 


Page Eight 


July 17, 1937 


DWARD ARNOLD again incarnates that curious 
blustering vitalism so characteristic of American “big 
men.” If his present characterization has a reminiscent 
ring, still it must be admitted that his work is polished 
and well punctuated, bringing an aliveness to the screen. 
Cary Grant gives another poised, sensitive performance. 
Donald Meek drew much of the audience interest with 
his amusing and well defined characterization of old 
Daniel Drew. Jack Oakie again plays himself and suc- 
ceeds in getting many laughs, which I suppose is; con- 
sidered the important thing by the producers. That his 
work smacks of 42nd and Broadway of a far later era, 
and is out of key with the characterizations of other per- 
formers will doubtless be deemed a negligible matter. 
Billy Gilbert was excellent in a small role of a German 
photographer. Thelma Leeds and Clarence Kolb were 
prominent among several other members of the cast do- 
ing good characterization work. 

Nathaniel Shilkret, in addition to directing an effec- 
tive musical score, has collaborated with Allie Wrubel 
on two songs, and with L. Wolfe Gilbert on another, 
which, if not distinctive, add a good deal of color to the 
picture. Dudley Nichols, John Twist, and Joel Sayre, 
who wrote the screen play from various source material, 
have done a creditable job, except for the film’s too de- 
tailed concern with finance. The art work, done by Van 
Nest Polglase, with Darrell Silvera in charge of set 
dressing, is of a high order, and as much can be said 
for the costumes by Edward Stevenson. Peverell Mar- 
ley photographed the production excellently. 

Atmospherically Stimulating 

WAR LORD, a First National picture. Associate producer, Bry- 
an Foy; screen play by Crane Wilbur; from a play by Porter Emer- 
son Browne; directed by John Farrow; assistant director, Marshall 
Hageman; photographer, Lu O'Connell, A.S.C.; film editor, Frank 
Dewar; dialogue director, Jo Graham; art director, Max Parker; 
gowns by Howard Shoup; technical advisor, Tommy Gubbins. Cast: 
Boris Karloff, Beverly Roberts, Ricardo Cortez, Gordon Oliver, 
Sheila Bromley, Vladimir Sokoloff, Gordon Hart, Richard Loo, 
Douglas Wood, Chester Gan, Luke Chan, Selmer Jackson, James 
B. Leong, Tetsu Komai, Eddie Lee, Maurice Lui, Mia Ichioaka. 

G OOD atmosphere and some sharply drawn and color- 
ful characterizations make of War Lord an enter- 
taining program picture. The sense of insecurity of life 
and property and of the evolution of a new social order 
in China is well gotten across. And so graphic is the 
picture’s description of life in both Shanghai and a rural 
province that it is highly instructive. John Farrow has 
done a creditable job of directing, building his situations 
effectively and keeping good movement in the story. An 
especially pleasing touch was the quiet speech of all the 
players in the gloom of the railway station at the open- 
ing of the story, which gave a foreboding air to the piece. 

Boris Karloff, as, the General Wu Yen Tong, leader 
of bandit forces, who holds a group of Americans cap- 
tive in a missionary settlement of a small town in a re- 
mote province, gives his most attractive and probably his 
most subtle characterization in this picture. He displays 
a wonder of a make-up, his eyebrows arched high over a 
convincingly swarthy skin and the corners of his eyes 
securely pulled back, presumably with adhesive tape. It 
remains consistent throughout the picture too, which is 


not always the happy lot of oriental make-ups. Whether 
Karloff’s General Tong characterization will hold water 
under the stress of close analysis is a matter of some 
doubt. Certainly he seems remarkably poised and intelli- 
gent for a man so soon come up from the ranks of the 
coolies, and it would seem that the general has acquired 
some mannerisms of deportment and speech which smack 
strongly of the Occident. But perhaps I simply don’t 
know my China. At any rate, for theatrical purposes 
Karloff’s characterization is wholly effective. It is filled 
with colorful paradoxes and emotional contrasts, all skill- 
fully realized by the actor, and it is rich in humor. A 
good deal of the humor grows out of the general’s re- 
gard for American gangster tactics. 

T 

1 HE fact that the story, taken from a play by Porter 
Emerson Browne, does not quite “jell” is due principally 
to the fact that our interest is diverted too frequently be- 
tween the activities of the various characters. Too many 
things happen. The result is that we do not become firm- 
ly interested in any of the characters, and are not enough 
concerned with what happens to them, which dissipates 
suspense. Too, the ending comes about rather abruptly, 
without a sufficient climax having been attained. 

At the beginning of this film again are to be seen the 
meaningless and inartistic news reel shots which so fre- 
quently mar pictures with a foreign locale. In a review 
of Last Train From Madrid (Spectator, June 19) I 
analyzed at some length the reasons why I find these 
news reel shots objectionable in film stories. Suffice to 
say that the mood of this story, indeed the story itself, 
begins only after these shots are concluded and the 
camera begins to tell its story in theatrical terms. 

Outstanding in the cast is Vladimir Sokoloff, playing 
an assassinated government general. He knows mood, is 
sensitive to character shadings, and is, altogether an ex- 
cellent actor. We hope to see more of him. Beverly 
Roberts plays with assurance, though she is not well cast 
as the missionary girl. Ricardo Cortez is pleasantly 
subtle, and Gordon Oliver performs his, heroics with a 
good command of mechanics. Shiela Bromley brings a 
distinctive manner to the performance of her jaded lady, 
and was likeable. Among the other players, who are too 
numerous to mention individually, Richard Loo was 
amusing as an officer in Karloff’s army, with his sepul- 
chral promptings of his superior on the best American 
gangster slang. 

Tuneful But Incredible 

THE SINGING MARINE, Warners. Executive producer, Hal B. 
Wallis; associate producer, Lou Edelman; director, Ray Enright; 
dance director, Busby Berkeley; original screen play, Delmer Daves; 
music and lyrics, Harry Warren and Al Dubin; added lyric, NIGHT 
OVER SHANGHAI, Johnny Mercer; musical director, Leo F. 
Forbstein; arrangements, Ray Heindorf; photographer, Arthur L. 
Todd; dialogue director, Gene Lewis; gowns, Orry-Kelly; assistant 
director, Jess Hibbs. Cast: Dick Powell, Doris Weston, Hugh Her- 
bert, Lee Dixon, Jane Darwell, Allen Jenkins, Larry Adler, Marcia 
Ralston, Big Boy Williams, Veda Ann Borg, Jane Wyman, Berton 
Churchill, Eddie Acuff, Henry O'Neill, Addison Richards, James 
Robbins, Miki Orita, Tetsu Komai. 

S you may have surmised, the brave men and true 
(well — reasonably) of the Marines are the back- 
ground for this musical film, and their carryings on, to- 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


gether with their singular adeptness at song and tripping 
the light fantastic, create good entertainment, if you are 
not a stickler for credibility in a story. 

It all begins when Dick Powell’s maritime buddies 
take up a collection and send him to New York to par- 
ticipate in an amateur radio contest, accompanied by a 
comely miss from San Diego, also a contestant, who at 
the crucial moment can produce only trepidation before 
the microphone and must content herself with becoming 
secretary to her companion, upon whom fame and for- 
tune descends immediately. The latter understandingly 
loses his equilibrium a bit, failing to make an expected 
call on some fellow Marines in Brooklyn, and when he 
returns to his ship, which is sailing for Shanghai, his pals 
outdo themselves at misunderstanding — in fact, they are 
geniuses at it — and the rift grows deeper and deeper. In 
Shanghai, where his agents have followed him, in order 
to present “The Singing Marine” on an international 
huck-up and to establish him in a night club, the rift 
grows even deeper, until at last he throws up his career 
to become a pal again to his buddies. The chump. 

Warren and Dubin provided some tuneful songs for 
the show, outstanding of which are “I Know Now,” 
sung appealingly by Doris Weston, and the infectious 
“Just Because My Baby Says It’s So,” sung by practic- 
ally everybody, and almost constantly by Hugh Herbert. 
“Night Over Shanghai” is somewhat too suggestive of 
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” for my approbation. 


UlRECTOR Ray Enright has kept the piece moving at 
a sprightly pace, and has made full use of every oppor- 
tunity for laughs,. The production numbers, staged by 
Busby Berkeley, are elaborate in the best Warner Broth- 
ers fashion, and for the most part are cleverly conceived 
and executed, though one or two become a trifle tedious. 

Dick Powell is a painfully girl-shy, kicking-his-toe-in- 
the-ground kid during the first portion of the picture, 
and not only gets away with it, but evokes considerable 
appeal, a fact which might be suggestive to the Brethren 
Warner in choosing his future parts. This one at least 
is a great improvement on the egotistical drug store cow- 
boy roles he has played so frequently in the past. Unfor- 
tunately his juvenility is lost with amazing rapidity in 
The Singing Marine, a single month of success in New 
York and the wiles of a torrid movie actress apparently 
working wonders. 


Ifl OST of the comedy is contributed by Hugh Herbert, 
who is immensely funny as the nit-witted agent, his flut- 
tering hands and falsetto ejaculations keeping the audi- 
ence hilarious throughout most of his scenes at the per- 
formance at which I was present. A highlight of the pic- 
ture was his brief appearance as his sister, with blond 
wig, long eyelashes, highly arched lips. 

Doris Weston showed a pleasing personality and sang 
pleasantly. Jane Darwell, Allen Jenkins, Marcia Ral- 
ston and Addison Richards were competent. Lee Dixon, 
with his usual buoyancy, performs one dance, and could 
have performed two to good effect. 

Larry Adler is most dexterous in drawing a wide var- 
iety of musical sounds from the harmonica, sometimes 
with tuneful results, sometimes too loudly. 


Love According to Fancj 

LOVE IN A BUNGALOW, Universal. Directed by Raymond B. 
McCarey; associate producer, E. M. Asher; screen play by Austin 
Parker, Karen DeWolf and James Mulhauser; original story by 
Eleanore Griffin and William Rankin; photographer, Milton Kras- 
ner, A.S.C.; film editors, Bernard W. Burton and Irving Brinbaum; 
musical director, Charles Previn; production designed by John 
Harkrider; associates (sets), Scollard Maas, (frocks), Vera West; 
sound, William Fox and Edwin Wetzel. Cast: Nan Grey, Kent Tay- 
lor, Jack Smart, Hobart Cavanaugh, Richard Carle, Louise Beavers, 
Margaret McWade, Marjorie Main, Minerva Urecal, Florence Lake, 
Jerry Tucker, Joan Howard and Joan Breslau. 

r HE setting for Love in a Bungalow, which is the back- 
ground for the whole story, is a model bungalow, and 
it is the gayest, whitest, most bizarre creation to be seen 
in some time. Within and about this airy dream-house 
takes place a tale with an engaging novelty — the real 
estate agent’s hostess falls in love with a young ne’er-do- 
well whom she finds helping himself to a bed one morn- 
ing, the two write a letter for a radio contest offering 
$5000 for the nation’s happiest married couple, win the 
prize, and are then faced with the problem of providing 
a happy home and children for the inspection of the 
donors of the prize. The story is told in a breezy style, 
and with grace and charm, but it just misses its mark 
because of irrelevancies in the story, which result in a 
lack of proportion and emphasis in the plot structure. 
There is also too much talk, and the film slows up 
noticeably in spots. A more frequent use of music would 
help a great deal to carry the film along. 

Raymond B. McCarey has given excellent direction 
to the picture. He demands an economy and precision 
of movement from his players which could well serve as 
a model for many another magaphone wielder. He also 
evidences a keen sense of humor in his handling of the 
scenes. 


if AN GREY is most attractive and has the promise of 
a distinctive style in her playing, but in this part she re- 
Veals signs of inexperience — emotional transitions just a 
bit too abrupt, frequently a lack of thorough motivation 
behind what she says or does. The influence of the 
director upon her is sometimes rather plainly evident, 
the actress not having quite gotten the knack of com- 
pletely losing herself in a character, and of being intui- 
tively motivated by that character. Miss Grey shows a 
great deal of promise, however, as I have said, and it is 
perhaps unfortunate at this stage of her career that she 
should be obliged to bite off a bit more than she could 
chew. Kent Taylor is pleasantly whimsical and easy in 
his part, though I do not think he has exhausted its 
possibilities. I doubt very much if his little mustache is 
one of his acting assets. 

Jack Smart is an amusing Babbitt, and Richard Carle 
is capital as the complacent donor Bisbee. The amiable 
complete revolution of his head as a departing gesture 
was fetching. A comedy highspot of the picture is the 
carryings on of Margaret McWade and Marjorie Main, 
the two maiden Bisbee sisters, one of whom is deaf. 
Florence Lake is funny, though her part in the early 
portion of the picture was one of the irrelevant elements. 

The production was designed by John Harkrider, with 
Scollard Maas as an associate worker on the setting. 


Page Ten 


July 17, 1937 


Trenchant Commentary 

HOOSIER SCHOOLBOY, Monogram Pictures. Associate pro- 
ducer, Ken Goldsmith; directed by William Nigh; screen play, 
Robert Lee Johnson; photographed by Paul Ivano, A.S.C.; tech- 
nical director, E. R. Hickson; recorded by Glenn Rominger; film 
editor, Roy Livingston; assistant director, Michael Eason; musical 
director, Abe Meyers. Cast: Mickey Rooney, Anne Nagel, Frank 
Shields, Edward Pawley, William Gould, Dorothy Vaughan, Anita 
Denniston, Harry Hayden, Bradley Metcalf, Doris Rankin, Walter 
Long, Helena Grant, Cecil Weston, Mary Field, Zita Moulton, 
Fred A. Kelsey. 

JT would seem that Monogram Pictures js serious in its 
I.^vowal to place upon the market a higher type of inde- 
pendent film. This one not only provides good entertain- 
ment, but it goes in for no little social commentary, tak- 
ing some trenchant pokes at the meanness of small town 
life, with its gossip, intolerance, and class distinction, and 
airing as well the conflicting views of capital and labor 
as they feature in a milk strike. The whole social set-up 
is viewed with the level eye of the journalist. Some of 
the scenes are so human that more than once the specta- 
tor finds a catch in his throat. 

Mickey Rooney, who stars, makes a touching little 
figure of the boy he plays, the youngster who lives on the 
wrong side of the tracks. Bristle-haired, resentful, his 
good qualities hidden beneath a superficial toughness, the 
result of a defense mechanism set up against the hurts he 
has had at the hands of those who won’t understand, the 
character brings to our minds with vividness some young- 
ster of the same type from our own school days, and 
induces us to look back at him from our vantage point of 
greater experience and view him with greater charity. 
Mickey’s scenes wdth the understanding young school 
teacher, and with his father, a drunken shell-shocked war 
hero, scenes which so easily could have curdled into sen- 
timentality, are directed by William Nigh with admir- 
able restraint and insight. 

The story develops consistantly, the social commentary 
being strung unobtrusively along the main thread of 
action, and builds to a strong climax. It is probable that 
the young school teacher effects her reforms with a little 
too much dispatch, and there are other incidents in the 
story which seem a bit arbitrary, such as the youngster’s 
encouraging his father to drive the milk truck through 
the picket blockade when the boy must have known that 
his teacher and the dairy owner’s son favored the strik- 
ing farmers; but these incidents far from invalidate the 
force of the film. 

AnNE NAGEL exhibits many of the attributes of a 
fine actress in her performance of the young teacher — a 
rich and flexible voice, poise, emotional depth, and intelli- 
gence. She should progress far in pictures. Sadly over- 
shadowed by her playing is Frank Shields, who reflects 
inexperience and, I should say, a lack of imagination. 
His gestures are awkward and he handles lines with 
little shading. Fortunately he is a good type for the part, 
and his few important scenes are with considerably bet- 
ter actors, so that his presence in the film is no very 
great detraction. 

Edward Pawley does excellent trouping as the former 
war hero, realizing expertly the contrasting facets of 
the character. His style is singularly suggestive of that 


of Lionel Barrymore. Dorothy Vaughan gives a neat 
performance as the school principal, and two of the chil- 
dren, Anita Denniston and Bradley Metcalf are good. 
The character women in the boarding house scene are 
much too broad — would be in the Hollywood Bowl — 
and are unfortunately a jarring note in the picture. 

The photography is first-rate throughout. A particu- 
larly striking scene was the soft-toned one of the train 
approaching in semi-darkness, its headlight fused into 
the rest of the picture but dominating it like a twilight 
moon. Paul Ivano filmed it. Ken Goldsmith, associate 
producer, is to be commended for his handling of the 
production. 


Neither Fish Nor Fowl 

WINDJAMMER, Radio picture and RKO release. George A. 
Hirliman production. Stars George O'Brien. Associate producer, 
David Howard; directed by Ewing Scott; original story by Major 
Raoul Haig; screen play by Dan Jarrett and James Gruen; photo- 
graphed by Frank B. Goode; recorded by W. C. Moore; film edi- 
tor, Robert Crandall; art director, Frank Sylos; musical direction 
by Abe Meyer. Supporting cast: Constance Worth, William Hall, 
Gavin Gordon, Brandon Evans, Lai Chand Mehra, Ben Hendricks, 
Lee Shumway, Stanley Blystone, Frank Hagney. Running time, 58 
minutes. 

G eorge o'brien, one of our outstanding heroes, 
according to the bes,t tradition, can be impressively 
stern and righteous, brave, jocund, or furious; but he errs 
in trying to be whimsical or arch. Subtlety is not his forte. 
In justice to O’Brien, of course, it should be said that the 
nifties he is called upon to mouth in tVindjammer inher- 
ently are not always convulsing. They are doubtless pro- 
vided by the scriptists, as a step in making of the hero a 
very clever fellow, as per the formula for action films, but 
the story’s being set against a background of the social 
uppercrust, with whom the audience associates a higher 
level of repartee, somehow places O’Brien’s verbal “lu- 
lus”, as well as much of his general deportment, at a 
disadvantage. 

The actor plays a young attorney who conspires to 
board a yacht engaged in a race to Honolulu, in order to 
serve the wealthy owner with a court supoena, and from 
then on our hero is simply too clever for words, getting 
in gibes on the slightest provocation, even though put at 
menial labor for his passages, rising to the occasion and 
manning the yacht almost single handed when the crew 
deserts it in a storm, and finally effecting a rescue of the 
Commodore and his party, including his beautiful daugh- 
ter, from the clutches of a piratic captain holding them 
prisoner on his barge. 

There is one good fight in the picture, and considerable 
Suspense is contrived, but the heavy emphasis on “society” 
detracts from the picture’s success as an action film. Of 
course, the fact that O’Brien spends much of his time 
showing up the socialites as an ineffectual lot may give 
some gratification to the “five-and-ten” audiences who 
ultimately will make the film profitable. My opinion, how 
ever, is that the“five-and-teners” would like better a little 
more rough-and-ready action. And as far as the more dis- 
criminating audiences are concerned, they will not find 
the mirroring of “society” very credible. This confusion 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


of genres makes of the picture a sort of hybrid, neither 
fish, fowl, nor good red herring. 

0.N the credit side of the production are some fine shots 
of the contesting yachts under sail, caught by Cinema- 
tographer Frank B. Goode. No spectacle of nature or 
man makes a more graceful camera study than a billowing 
sailboat. Also on the credit side is William Hall, who, 
as the outlaw Captain Morgan, comes perilously close to 
taking the picture away from our hero. Some of his leer- 
ing villainy is a bit overdone, but on the whole he plays 
with notable authority and conviction. Too, he boasts a 
burly, commanding voice, and a physique which dominates 
the camera. 

Constance Worth reflects experience in her work, and 
she is likeable, albeit she is not always attractively lighted. 
Brandon Evans, the Commodore, is as bigoted and stupid 
as he is supposed to be, and Gavin Gordon uses his chief 
asset, poise, for all it is worth in performing another of 
his pussy-foot gentlemen. Among those doing competent 
work in small parts are Lai Chand Mehra, Ben Hen- 
dripks, Frank Hagney, and Sam Flint. Ewing Scott 
directed. 

Unsustained Satire 

SUPER SLEUTH, R.K.O. Producer, Edward Small; director, Ben 
Stoloff; play, Harry Segall; screen play, Gertrude Purcell and Er- 
nest Pagano; photographer, Joseph H. August; special effects, 
Vernon L. Walker; film editor, Kenny Holmes. Cast: Jack Oakie, 
Ann Sothern, Eduardo Ciannelli, Alan Bruce, Edgar Kennedy, Joan 
Woodbury, Bradley Page, Paul Guilfoyle, Willie Best, William Cor- 
son, Alec Craig, Richard Lane, Paul Hurst, George Rosener, Fred 
Kelsey, Robert E. O'Connor, Philip Morris, Dick Rush. 

SATIRICAL viewpoint is the saving grace of this 
film. The story, a comedy-mystery affair adapted by 
Gertrude Purcell and Ernest Pagano from a play by 
Harry Segall, has a good plot but it gets out of hand 
and goes violently slapstick toward the end. Moreover, 
there are manifested throughout the film numerous signs 
of haste, carelessness, and indifference in production. 
Hollywood is the locale and the movie star Bill Martin, 
played by Jack Oakie, famed for being a super sleuth 
in his pictures, undertakes to track down a “poison pen” 
writer in competition with the police, a feat which, 
though incurring several hazardous risks to his person, 
needless to say he ultimately accomplishes, with the aid 
of extraordinarily good luck. A peculiar feature of the 
film is that the audience knows the identity of the myste- 
rious criminal all along. 

The most interesting aspect of the picture is its por- 
trayal of the behind-the-scenes activities of Hollywood. 
There is an amusing frankness in the film’s revelation of 
the intimacy of the workers in a studio, and the far from 
awe-inspiring position held by an actor on the lot. In 
these studio scenes Director Ben Stoloff has gotten some 
cleverness. 

J ACK OAKIE again performs in his usual loose style, 
as though he were “emceeing” a vaudeville show, some- 
times being very funny through sheer ability at mimicry, 
sometimes missing his points by a wide margin. Ann 


Sothern has nothing very exacting to do, but does it 
competently. Eduardo Ciannelli is effectively sinister as 
the murderous “poison pen” writer. Edgar Kennedy 
still gets laughs with his old bag of tricks as the police 
lieutenant. Alan Bruce was pleasing in a small part, and 
Joan Woodbury and Bradley Page also lent good support. 

The jerky final shot of Oakie and Miss Sothern, seated 
on a trap settee, being whisked in and out of the wall, first 
their feet and then their heads uppermost, all the while 
engrossed in amour, was offensive and silly and by all 
means should be cut. 

IS IT ACTING? 

By Gene Lockhart 

N a quiet corner on the set, the Character Actor sat 
reading a copy of the Hollywood Spectator. As his 
eyes followed the persuasive path of Mr. Beaton’s phrases 
the Young Actor ambled over, straddled a chair, pointed 
to the Only Magazine Devoted to the Screen as an Art, 
and remarked, “He says that stage training is not neces- 
sary to success on the screen.” 

The Character Actor nodded. 

“He says that personalities are more important than 
trained actors.” 

“Yes?” 

“He says that the screen is not an acting art.” 

“So I understand.” 

“He also says that it’s an art of the projection of per- 
sonality.” 

The Character Actor closed his copy of Hollywood’s 
oldest film publication and studied the handsome, wavy- 
haired Young Actor. “How long have you been in mo- 
tion pictures?” 

“Over seven months.” 

“Ah, it’s a pleasant feeling.” 

“What is?” 

“To have your option taken up. Have you had any 
stage experience?” 

“Sure. I was in two plays at college. That’s how 
they discovered me.” 

“Mm! I understand that the studio has decided to 
make you a star.” 

“Well, I’m playing the lead in this picture.” 

“And playing it nicely.” 

“Thanks. Of course this part is sort of easy for me, 
being the part of a fellow just out of college. I’m just 
playing myself. They say I’m a personality.” 

“I see.” 

“Later on I’m going to get to play character parts, I 
hope; but you haven’t told me what you think of Mr. 
Beaton’s remarks.” 

“Well, the proof of one of his remarks is self-evident.” 
“Which one is that?” 

“That stage training is not necessary to success on the 
screen.” 

“If you mean me I guess you’re right; of course, I 
don’t know yet what it’s all about. They tell me to look 
like this, speak like that and I keep on doing it till they 
get what they want.” 



Page Twelve 


July 17, 1937 


“Yes?” 

“But I feel I need training of some kind.” 

“Aren’t you getting it? You’re being trained for the 
screen and getting paid for it, so obviously Mr. Beaton is 
correct; stage training is not necessary to gain success on 
the screen.” 

“Then I guess Mr. Beaton is right when he says that 
personalities are more important than trained actors.” 
“More important to whom?” 

“To the producers, I suppose.” 

“What kind of personalities?” 

“The kind that appeal to audiences.” 

How many principals are there in this picture?” 
“About fifteen.” 

“How many of them are ‘personalities’?” 

“Well, there’s myself, the girl I play with, and that 
fellow with the funny accent.” 

“And the other twelve who support you and the young 
lady?” 

“They’re just actors.” 

“Quite right. Like myself, they’re just actors; do you 
know their names?” 

“Some of them. The actress who plays the part of the 
old grandmother is Beulah Bondi, the fellow who plays 
the old Swede is Walter Brennan, the nervous professor 
is Walter Kingsford, and then there are Frank Morgan, 
Jessie Ralph, Elizabeth Risdon, Fay Bainter. . . .” 

“An all-star Belasco cast.” 

“Eh?” 

“Forgive me. I was thinking of other days.” 

“But these people are not the same off the screen, so 
what they do on the screen must be acting.” 

“It would seem so.” 

“But Mr. Beaton says there is no such thing as an art 
of acting in motion pictures.” 

“It’s an interesting point of view.” 

“What do you think?” 

“I believe there is a technique of acting for the screen, 
just as there is for the stage.” 

“Then what is it? What’s the difference between stage 
acting and screen acting?” 

“Did you ever see a person paint a poster?” 

“Yes.” 

“Did you ever see a person paint a miniature?” 

“Yes.” 

“What was the difference in method?” 

“Why, the poster was painted with broad strokes and 
the miniature was painted with delicate touches.” 

“To my mind, that is the difference between stage and 
screen acting.” 

“I see. But what about this ‘projection of personal- 
ity’? Does Mr. Beaton mean somebody like Jimmy 
Durante ?” 

“I doubt it.” 

“Mae West?” 

“I hardly think so.” 

“But they’re personalities; they both project.” 

“True; they project something, but not what Mr. 
Beaton has in mind — unless I do him an injustice.” 
“Well, how do you project your personality?” 


“I’m afraid my opinion on the matter is based upon 
my training as an actor with which Mr. Beaton does not 
agree.” 

“As a stage actor?” 

“Yes, and also as a screen actor.” 

“I’m listening.” 

“Thank you. You remember the song, ‘Every Little 
Movement Has a Meaning All It’s Own’?” 

“No.” 

“Mm! Well, this morning you were in a drawing- 
room scene; you stood talking to the charming young 
heroine, trying to make an impression on her?” 

“Yes?” 

“To project that sort of personality?” 

“Yes.” 

“You stood with your feet spread wide apart and 
your hands behind your back?” 

“Yes, that’s a habit of mine.” 

“The director corrected you.” 

“Yes, but why did he? That’s me. That’s my per- 
sonality.” 

“I agree. But was it the personality you should pro- 
ject on the screen if the audience is to accept you as a 
smart young college man making love to a charming 
girl?” 

“I get it.” 

“It seems to me that what Mr. Beaton means by ‘pro- 
jection of personality’ is placing upon the screen the per- 
sonality of the character one is playing with sufficient 
naturalness and clarity, to be convincing.” 

“What do you mean by naturalness?” 

“Just that.” 

“You mean that I must learn lines, learn business, 
and then perform them for the camera just as naturally 
as I’m talking to you?” 

“If that’s the sort of part it is, yes.” 

“But that’s acting.” 

“Of a sort.” 

“But it’s mighty hard for me to be natural and at the 
same time think of lines and business.” 

“All young actors have that difficulty, but in time you 
will become a trained screen actor and those obstacles 
will disappear.” 

“What do you mean by a trained screen actor?” 
“Simply that you will learn the technique of acting on 
the screen just as a stage actor learns the technique of 
acting on the stage.” 

“Well, another question. What do you mean by 
‘clarity’ ?” 

“Do you remember the scene you played this morning 
with two other actors? It was a long shot, and you were 
in the center.” 

“I remember.” 

“As they talked you turned your head from one to the 
other several times.” 

“Yes, just as I would do naturally.” 

“Then the director took a close-up of you.” 

“Yes, and he told me not to move my head ; just move 
my eyes.” 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


“That is screen technique. If you had done in the 
close-up what you naturally felt like doing there would 
be too much head movement in the close-up on the 
screen. The thought you wanted to project would have 
been confused by unnecessary head movement.” 

“I see. So that is clarity.” 

“One form of clarity.” 

“Then I don’t do what is natural for me to do!” 
“You make it appear as if it were natural.” 

“But if, as Mr. Beaton says, the screen is not an act- 
ing art, why can’t I do what I wish? Why do I have to 
keep my head still in a close-up?” 

“It helps you to do what charming Mr. Beaton calls 
‘projecting your personality’.” 

“Now, I’m ga-ga; well, another thing, do you remem- 
ber that long speech I had yesterday, the one with the 
seventeen takes?” 

“When you were angry and told) the girl what you 
thought of her?” 

“Yes. I still don’t know why the director made me 
do it so many times.” 

“You arrived at your climax, vocally and emotionally, 
too soon. You had nothing left for the finish.” 

“But I was mad at her. I felt that way.” 

“True, but that was a speech which, as we say, had to 
be built up. It is one of the first rules one learns.” 
“Rules of what?” 

“Of acting.” 

“Oh! But I wouldn’t feel natural doing it that way.” 
“That’s probably because you have not had much ex- 
perience in reading long speeches.” 

“You mean there’s a technique in speaking lines even 
before the camera?” 

“Ask any director.” 

“Then the screen does demand that a person know how 
to act?” 

“Again I suggest that you ask any director. Do you 
remember Luise Rainer’s telephone conversation in The 
Great Ziegfeld ?” 

“Yes.” 

“That scene should prove to you that technique in 
acting is necessary on the screen.” 

“Well, now I’m scared stiff.” 

“What about?” 

“My next picture.” 

“Why?” 


Do You Like 

GOOD FOOD — GOOD BEDS 
AND ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME? 
Then Stop at the 

SANTA MARIA INN 

SANTA MARIA. CALIFORNIA 

Frank J. McCoy, Manager 

174 miles from Los Angeles — 271 miles from Sen Francisco 
On Highway 101 


“It’s a costume part; the role of an 18th century poet, 
sort of a gay fellow, takes snuff and all that.” 

“I see.” 

“Now I can’t play myself because my manners are too 
modern.” 

“Then you must characterize.” 

“Sure, but how? How does a fellow take snuff, how 
doees he handle his handkerchieef, how does he walk?” 
“My young friend, all those things are part of the 
repertoire of a trained actor, whether he appears on the 
screen or on the stage, but your director will teach you.” 
“Well then, the screen must be an acting art.” 
“Certainly; the screen is an acting art for thos,e who 
have the ability to make it so. If you want proof, study 
the performances of trained actors: Beulah Bondi in 

Make Way for Tomorrow ; Adolphe Menjou in Cafe 
Metropole, notice how with a look or a half-turn he 
builds a line for a laugh without sacrificing character; 
Helen Westley in the same picture; Joseph Schildkraut 
in The Garden of Allah ; Frank Morgan and Charles 
Ruggles in any of their pictures; these, and many more 
trained actors whom I could name should prove to you 
that the screen is an acting art; that the camera is kind 
to the actor who thinks in character and deadly to the 
actor who merely recites memorized lines.” 

“Well, I’m going to write Mr. Beaton a letter and 
ask him what he thinks of your point of view.” 

“Please don’t.” 

“Why not?” 

“Let him enjoy his vacation; let him enjoy his roses; 
let him enjoy his belief that the screen is not an acting 
art; and while he is thus occupied, young people like 
yourself, with the help of director and cutting room, 
will still go on projecting your personalities and trained 
actors will, I hope, still go on supporting you by just 
acting!” 

The Young Actor unstraddled himself, waved his 
hand and strolled away. As he went, the Character Ac- 
tor murmured to himself: “Suit the action to the word; 
the word to the action, with this special observance, that 
you o’erstep not the modesty of nature!” 



Page Fourteen 


July 17. 1937 


TREA TMENT of IMA GINA TIVE SO UNDS 


By Edward Le V eque 

/ T could safely be said that sound film recording has 
reached very near mechanical perfection. This is spe- 
cially true in Hollywood and in our major studios in 
particular. There is no sound audible to the human ear 
that sound technicians cannot reproduce with incredible 
fidelity; in fact, among other marvels, they have given us 
the illusion of third dimensional sound, so that voices, ap- 
pear to advance or receed together with the moving char- 
acters on the screen. Thus what I have to say should 
not reflect upon the sound men who merely take orders 
and who, with masterly precision, deliver whatever job 
is entrusted to their care. 

Sound affects us in two ways — intellectually and phy- 
sically — and because the motion picture industry has not 
yet stumbled upon this truth, glaring blunders, detri- 
mental to the illusion of reality, are constantly being 
committed. For convenience, we shall name one type of 
physical sounds and one of mental sounds. 

Physical sounds are those sounds which thrill our 
nerves, as when we hear scraping or filing upon iron ; 
while mental sounds are of an abstract nature; their ap- 
peal is to the imagination, and leave undisturbed the 
nervous system. On the mental side are the aesthetic 
sounds — harmonious noises of nature, melodious voices 
and, of course, music. However, music can be separated 
into two extreme camps within this mental sphere: music 
that elevates the soul, inspires us to high ideals, and 
music that stirs the savage within us. This last type of 
music transgresses the borders of physical noises. 

T 

I HE screen, today, is suffering from an overdose of 
physical noises; sounds are reproduced so life-like that 
the screeching of taxicab breaks tear the living tissues 
from your nerves, exactly like the skidding screeches of 
the taxicab that nearly ran you down before you walked 
into the show. One goes to shows to forget, but the 
screen never lets you forget the noisy world outside. I 
don’t mean that the screen should be gagged. Sound is 
here to stay, so we might as well strain its nerve-wrack- 
ing properties and make it amenable to our sensibilities. 
To give the public unadulterated screeching sounds is 


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barbarous, not to say costly, since sensitive persons stay 
away from shows because of it. For years I have made 
it a point to inquire from most everyone I meet, his or 
her reactions to nerve-wracking noises in pictures, and 
for everyone who doesn’t mind them there are six who 
do. Such sounds are defended on the grounds of realism, 
but a little analysis should explode this belief. 

To begin with, we do not see flesh and blood people 
upon the screen, but shadows in various degrees of grey- 
ness which our imagination clothes with the concreteness 
of life. Thus, for shadows to emit sounds is an ana- 
chronism, a mixture of the real and the ethereal which 
has the tendency to destroy whatever illusion of realism 
the shadows, have provided. That is why in the early 
days of sound it was a startling novelty to see photo- 
graphs talking. The intellect had to be adjusted to this 
incredibility, which, in the end, it has learned to take 
for granted, just as long ago it has learned to accept the 
darkened auditorium. Switch the light suddenly and, al- 
though the picture may still be seen with clarity, there is 
a period of mental disturbance until the light becomes 
part of the procedure at hand. 

OUND is now part of the procedure of viewing pic- 
tures, a fact which our intellect no longer questions; 
however, sound should be handled so as not to prove a 


To The Profession 


I WOULD BE VERY GLAD 
TO SERVICE 

YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS 
WITHOUT OBLIGATION 
ON YOUR PART 


CHARLES H. SEITER 

SUITE 710 EQUITABLE BUILDING 
HOLLYWOOD — GLADSTONE 8889 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


disturbing factor, and thus make us conscious that we 
are merely watching a motion picture when we should 
be entirely oblivious of the medium which has trans- 
planted us to the land of drama. 

Jarring noises destroy all attempts at realism since 
they call attention to themselves as annoyingly as if the 
person sitting next to you kept elbowing you on the ribs. 
And to believe that excruciating sounds are not injurious 
to the nervous system, is to overlook the fact that our 
army hospitals are still full with shell-shocked patients, 
the victims of brutal sounds beyond their endurance to 
withstand. 

Now, since our imagination can give reality to grey 
shadows, it can also attribute life-like qualities to noises 
which suggest the real ones. The stage has presented 
accordionists, guitarists, cornetists, etc., who, with sur- 
prising realism, have imitated life-like sounds more stimu- 
lating to the imagination than the real sounds. Thus, 
they have shown us the way to destill the nerve-jarring 
properties of physical noises and leave merely their es- 
sence ; in other words, physical sounds can be transformed 
into mental sounds, through the aid of music. I don’t 
mean by this that there should be a sustained musical 
score throughout the entire picture; some pictures, of 
course, may be enhanced by such a device, while others 
may suffer from it. Every picture is an entirely different 
identity, and each needs its own special treatment. How- 
ever, every picture will be enhanced if its nerve-jarring 
noises are eliminated. 



LOUIS KING 

Directed 

“WILD MONEY” 

For Paramount 

Current Production . . . 

“BULLDOG DRUMMOND 
COMES BACK” 



MUSIC and LYRICS 
for 

"The Singing Marine" 

Harry 

WARREN 

and 

Al 

DUBIN 

Warner Bros. 


SLAVKO 

VORKAPICH 

Writing and Directing 

MONTAGE SEQUENCES 

Cor 

METRO-GOLD WYN-MAYER 


Page Sixteen 


July 17, 1937 


WARREN LOW 


1 

Film Editor 

“The Li£e of Emile Zola 11 


“The Life of 

Emile Zola 1 ' 

Story by 

HEINZ HERALD 

AND 

GEZA HERGZEG 

Screenplay by 

GEZA HERCZEG 

AND 

HEINZ HERALD* 

in Collaboration 

SC 96 


UT why haven’t we yet delved into the realm of 
imaginative sound? Simply because we have straight- 
jacketed ourselves to one standard formula which the 
whole industry has accepted as final: That everything 
visible on the screen must be heard, and that when a 
character speaks all background noises must drop in 
volume so that it may not drown the dialogue. In the 
days, when silent pictures were changing from knee-pants 
to long ones, photography had also been reduced to a 
simple formula: intense light for comedies and less light 
for dramas. Everybody connected with production knew 
by heart that it took so many domes, so many spot-lights 
and so many broadsides for a set of such and s,uch dimen- 
sions. There was not such a thing as imaginative pho- 
tography with its various tricks of lights and shadows to 
convey any mood desired. It was raw, unretouched pho- 
tography, just as our sound is today raw, unretouched 
sound lacking in nuances to convey the various moods in 
conformity with the action. 

Visual moods can be intensified by means of imagina- 
tive sounds; for example: An excursion train is about to 
start with a load of happy mirthful children. At the sta- 
tion, bidding them good-bye, are the parents as delighted 
as their offspring. To convey this mood, the locomo- 
tive’s tooting should be as melodiously gay as the mirth 
within the coaches. Later, the excursion meets with dis- 
aster, and the parents, with heavy hearts, await the train’s 
return. If before, the train’s whistle was gay, now that 
the mood has, changed to sadness, it should be as mourn- 
ful as the atmosphere which permeates the scene. 

T 

M HE nature of another story demands that the audi- 
ence should share the inner feelings of a crippled, sweet 
old lady who passes the time rocking herself in a chair; 
thus when she reads a letter that animates her with joy, 
the creaking of the chair should be as melodious as the 
gigglings of the frollicsome angels; if an injustice arouses 
her anger, the chair’s creacking should be dry and harsh, 
but at no time nerve-jarring; if sad in her loneliness, it 
should suggest murmurs of doleful weeping. 

If, in the first example, a raw, life-like, every-day 
locomotive’s tooting were to do service for both — the gay 
and the sad scene — the whistle would be meaningless as 
far as the mood is concerned. So would be the same mon- 
otonous creaking of a rocker as background for three 
distinct phases of feeling. 

It surprised me that, when I discussed the idea of 
imaginative sounds with some one identified with pro- 
duction, although this person saw its possibilities and 
agreed with me on every point, he argued that it was not 
altogether feasible of accomplishment. The mike, he ex- 
plained, picks up all noises within its range, and if some 
of these noises are of the unwanted kind, how then could 
they be erased so as to leave only the pleasant ones? Ap- 
parently he forgot that most background noises are added 
days after the scenes have been filmed, since the mike, 
which is trained principally upon the actors, registers 
background noises very faintly or none at all, and these 
sounds have to be added afterwards; also that many 
scenes in which there is no dialogue are shot silent, and 
footsteps, doors banging, brake-screechings, etc., are 
dubbed afterwards. 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seventeen 


T)ACKGROUND noises for background’s sake, and 
D without direct relation to the story, often detract from 
those which have a significance to the story. Such was 
the case in a scene in which the tick-tock of an office 
wall clock lost its dominant emphasis because it became 
merely part of the background noises, s,uch as the clat- 
tering of typewriters and the filtering street murmurs; 
thus what could have been a dramatic sound punch was 
obscured by constant background noises. It would have 
been far more effective if these noises had gradually 
faded away, since the character, who was presented sub- 
jectively, had his attention fixed upon the tick-tocks, and 
these could have grown louder and louder as the tension 
became greater. 

Reducing the volume of background noises to permit 
the dialogue to be heard is a mechanical adjustment that 
draws attention to itself. Most incidental noises should 
be left to the imagination. After all, our imagination i§ 
able to supply sound ; it did so in silent pictures, even to 
the right mood. Our heroines had beautiful voices, while 
those of the villains fitted their alcoholic breaths and 
long black mustaches. 


llEMEMBER the disillusionment of movie fans when 
their favorites first spoke from the screen? I once saw a 
silent picture in which a judge passed a death sentence. 
The illusion was so well sustained that it seemed as 
though I heard his ominous voice pronouncing the sen- 
tence, while the pounding of his gavel upon the desk re- 
sounded as if he were nailing the coffin. 

Just a riddle. A scene shows us a girl walking out 
of a hotel lobby. As it is customary, immediately street 
noises assail our ears. Perhaps this is as it should be if 
the girl has just arrived from the mountain fastness of 
Arkansas and, naturally, is acutely aware of all strange 
city noises. But suppose the girl has lived in a big city 
ever since her first wails in a maternity ward. She cer- 
tainly is seasoned to city noises so that she would have to 
stop and strain her ears to tell them apart, unless there 
was a parade of bellowing bulls pounding upon the pave- 
ment. The question is: Shall in both instances back- 
ground noises be treated alike? 


CAs Others Comment 

As An Exhibitor Sees Them 

f OR some time there has been in the pile of papers I 
dig into at intervals, a letter from an British Co- 
lumbia exhibitor. As I read it over, it seems to me it 
should be of interest to Hollywood. Here it is: 

I agree with what you said in regard to it being a farce 
to vote on the BEST picture of the year, as comparisons are 
impossible in such varied subjects as, say, San Francisco and 
These Three. My list would not agree with yours quite, but 
I’d certainly put the two mentioned high. San Francisco only 
did a little below Mutiny with me, and These Three was a 
gorgeous flop. For best performances I’d vote Jeanette Mac- 
Donald in San Francisco, a most difficult and trying part, 
marvelously sustained. Clark Gable’s couldn’t be bettered but 
it was a. “gift” for him. For the same reason I mentioned, I’d 
place little Marcia Mae Jones second in honors; no one else 
seemed to have noticed her, all plumping for Bonita Gran- 



Page Eighteen 


July 17, 1937 


♦ 


Paul Muni 

in 

“The Lite 
ot 

Emile Zola” 


* 

* 

4 


ville, whose part, though her performance was excellent, was 
comparatively easy; but the former kid had an awful load to 
carry and did it superbly. Other pictures high on my list are 
Showboat (next best musical to Marietta, I consider), tho it 
did poor business here. 

Nine Days a Queen (new low at B. O. for IS months! 
I’m ashamed of my people to say), Fauntleroy, Rhodes (fair 
at B. O.), Biff Bright Eyes (flop), Captain Blood (flop), Es- 
capade (flop), but did better when I insisted on a repeat — 
Abdul the Damned (flop) ; so you see if I picked pictures 
to suit my taste, I’d starve quickly. When I review successes 
here, I’m amazed and consider I know absolutely nothing 
about my business. Apalling stuff like Let’s Sing Again did 
< well — radio publicity, I suppose. 

There’s one angle I’d like you to think about. Trailers. I 
know it must be a problem for producers. I buy them all, 
censor them, and reject 50% as being more likely to do harm 
than good. I’ve so often heard patrons say, “Well, I would 
have gone but the ‘preview’ (meaning trailer) put me off.” 
1 consider that a muddle of shots from coming pictures, as 
most trailers are, only confuse and leave no vivid impression, 
especially as 50% of them are love-clinches, at which my 
place little Marca Mae Jones second in honors; no one else 
lines of Wm. Powell’s and Luise Rainer’s out of character 
speeches, as shown at conclusion of Escapade, a confidential 
chat to the public as to the part they are going to play. It 
would rivet more attention. What think yo-u? 

I did much better last year, due almost entirely to bank 
nights, which says little for the public’s desire for pictures 
as such. Now the police have shut down on bank nights, I’m 
where I was in 1935 and yet everyone is earning wages. The 
industry means little to the public. It is apathetic. 

GEOFFREY G. BAISS 


When Sound Proved a Failure 

Dear Mr. Beaton: 

Congratulations on your splendid discussion on Color and 
Sound in the Spectator of June 19. I doubt that it dents the 
super-morons in Hollywood, but it is true. In fact, I found out 
a lot of things about sound effects 30 years ago while pounding 
the piano in a movie in an Ohio town. We had an effect man 
back of the screen and he was good. He didn’t miss anything. 
He was quite a sensation and draw for about a month. Then 
the patrons got to kidding him and we decided to do without 
sound effects. Of course our sound effects as a background 
against actors whose talking could be seen but not heard, were 
a different matter than the cinema of today. However, the 
psychology was somewhat the same. Sound effects today are re- 
duced to a formula, crickets for a night in the country and loud 
music for main titles. 

It is too bad that radio hasn’t its Welford Beaton. In general 
I think that the pictures, as bad and dumb as a lot of them are, 
are way ahead of the radio as regards showmanship. I listened 
to a few programs today and such abortions most of them were. 

But how about this Television? The big companies are 
spending the stockholders’ money aplenty. Let us grant it is 
perfected and there are plenty of sets in use and sponsors are 
interested. What are they going to televise f Performers read- 
ing from a script? What will the picture producers have to say 
about televising films? 

The Central Casting episode in A Star Is Born bringing out 
the 1 in 100,000 chance of breaking in the movies, was quite im- 
pressive to the audiences I am sure. But the sad part to me 
was to see Peggy Wood in that bit. I knew Peggy when she 
lived with her aunt at the Elmsford at Eighth Avenue and 49th 
Street in New York. She had a small part in The Madcap 
Duchess. Then she traveled far, ever so far. Now she is back 
where she started. Life is such a tragedy after all unless you 
have a sense of humor. — J. B. W., Hollywood. 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nineteen 



l 

\ 

) 

WILLIAM DIETERLE 


| 

| 

! 1 

! Directed 

l 

\ 

l 

i I 

' The Life of Emile Zola'' 


! 

1 

! 

i 

i 

i 

i 

i 

i 

i 

i 

i 


Page Twenty 


July 17, 1937 



Associate Producer 


THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA' 


Previous Releases 

CALL IT A DAY ANTHONY ADVERSE 

LOUIS PASTEUR WHITE ANGEL 

GREEN PASTURES PETRIFIED FOREST 

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM 



10 CENTS 



SPECTATOR 


MR. ZUKOR MAKES IMPORTANT DISCOVERY 
WHEN A FILM CRITIC MAY BE CRITICIZED 
IMPROVED METHOD OF RECORDING MUSIC 
OUR SYMPATHY GOES TO ROBERT TAYLOR 
STAGE CANNOT COMPETE WITH THE SCREEN 
HOW MANY PICTURES SHOULD STARS MAKE? 

ONE SAM GOLDWYN IDEA WE HAD FIRST 
WE WRITE ABOUT AN ACTOR AND HIS WIFE 
HOW STAGE AND SCREEN ACTING DIFFER 


A Weekly 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Twelfth Year 


Los Angeles, California — September 18, 1937 Vol. 12 — No. 13 


REVIEWED ... 


STAGE DOOR 


★ 


MUSIC FOR MADAME 


★ 


THIS WAY. PLEASE 


WHY DON’T FILM PRODUCERS TAKE A CHANCE? 


They admit there is too much dialogue in the pictures they are turning out, yet they are taking no steps to 
reduce the quantity. That is because they do not know how it can be done. On every lot there are some 
people with motion picture brains. Why not give such brains a chance to function? Producers will have to 
come to it sometime. Why not now? They can not keep on selling too much talk. 



Page Two 


September 18, 1937 



'y/uj7?L the 

EDITORS EASY CHAIR 


ADOLPH ZUKOR OBSERVES . . . 

HIS from some references by Terry Ramsaye in 
Motion Picture Herald to remarks made by Adolph 
Zukor prior to his recent departure for Europe: “Mr. 
Zukor, incidentally, admits, or perhaps more accur- 
ately, observes, that the motion picture habit is no 
more. He sees the industry today dependent on cus- 
tomers out shopping for shows.” Of more value 
than Paramount’s president’s final recognition of a 
condition which has existed for the past half dozen 
years, might be his explanation for a box-office con- 
dition which has made the film business less stable 
and more spotty than it used to be when pictures 
were silent and people had the habit of going so 
many times a week no matter what was showing. 
Facts are of no value unless we know the reason for 
their being facts. The motion picture box-office de- 
pends largely for its revenue on exploitation and ad- 
vertising. Weekly Variety recently carried several 
pages of Paramount’s advertising. High, Wide and 
Handsome, one of Mr. Zukor’s productions, is de- 
scribed in Mr. Zukor’s advertising as being “the big- 
gest picture Paramount ever produced, the picture 
that London, New York and Los Angeles is raving 
about.” In another part of the same Variety, that 
devoted to accurate estimates of box-office receipts, 
we find this reference to this picture, then showing at 
the Astor Theatre where a film attraction which does 
not average $10,000 a week is a decided flop: 
“A disappointing roadshow attraction; last week 
$4,700.” When the run of the picture at the Car- 
thay Circle Theatre here was drawing to a close, one 
of Mr. Zukor’s publicity men wrote, and the Los 
Angeles Times published, this statement: “The 

huge production has won wide acclaim and capacity 
houses here.” In the third week of the run Variety 
had this to say about the business being done by 
High, Wide: “Playing to lowest grosses in history of 
this house, third week’s outlook is pretty dismal; 
second week finished brutal $3,900.” 

Film's False Pretenses . . . 

HAT part does such high, wide and handsome ly- 
ing as the Paramount advertising and exploita- 
tion departments indulged in, play in breaking the 
attendance habit? The chief asset of any business 
concern is the confidence its customers place in its ap- 
praisal of its product. Here we have Paramount ly- 


ing in its advertisement aimed at its first customers, 
the exhibitors: and lying also in its publicity aimed 
at its ultimate customers, those who buy tickets at 
the box-office. When an individual obtains money 
under false pretenses, he is sent to jail if proven guilty. 
When Mr. Zukor’s company does it, it is regarded in 
film circles as a procedure so commendable that all the 
other producing organizations indulge in it. I will 
grant there is some element of truth in the Paramount 
advertisement from which I quote, for undoubtedly 
those who paid to see the picture raved about the 
poor return they got for their money, but that is not 
the kind of raving the fiction writer had in mind 
when he wrote the ad. The film industry as a whole 
spends many millions of dollars each year in adver- 
tising and not one word of any picture advertisement 
is believed by anyone. But the poor old wolf goes 
right ahead, quite unaware his sheep’s clothing is 
worn too thin to conceal his identity. 

There's a Bigger Reason . . . 

HILE the public’s lack of confidence in any claim 
the producers themselves make for their product 
played a part in breaking the attendance habit, it was 
but a small part. Knowledge that the habit is broken 
is of no value to the industry unless it is coupled with 
knowledge of its cause, just as the fact of the box- 
office failure of High, Wide and Handsome is of no 
value to its makers unless they know why it failed. 
If they will go back to the SPECTATOR of July 31st 
and read its review of the picture — written before the 
picture was released to the public — they will find the 
reasons set forth; and if producers will go back six 
years in SPECTATOR files they will find the prediction 
that the habit would be broken and the reasons upon 
which the prediction was based; and if they go back 
five years they will find it recorded that the habit was 
broken, and the reasons repeated. And Mr. Zukor 
only today “admits, or perhaps more accurately, ob- 
serves, that the motion picture habit is no more”! 
But neither he nor Mr. Ramsaye suggests the only 
matter of importance which attaches to the observa- 
tion — the reason. When the tank is full of gas and 
your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you 
are not made much wiser if a mechanic looks it over 
and sagely announces, “It’s stopped.” You want it 
to go again, and the first step toward the attainment 
of that objective is the ascertaining of what made it 




HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published weekly at Los Angeles, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, president; 
Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 52 1 3. Subscription price, five dollars the year; 
two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies ten cents. Application for entry as second-class matter is pending. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Three 



stop. Similarly, Mr. Zukor's sage observation is of 
no value to anyone unless coupled with the reason for 
the stopping. 

What the Reason Is . . . 

L OOKING for that reason, the first thing we find is 
that in the days of silent pictures we cared little 
what was showing at our favorite film theatres; we 
went regularly, had the habit of going; the box-office 
could depend upon so much revenue from us each 
week. The next point to settle is the reason for our 
indifference to what was showing. That means delv- 
ing into motion picture fundamentals. We find we 
were (not entertained by what we saw on the screen. 
We entertained ourselves. We imagined the shadows 
on the screen were real people moving in a three 
dimensional world; when they conversed, our imag- 
inations supplied the sound of their voices, and, 
guided by printed titles, fashioned the stories to suit 
ourselves. If our imaginations had not been capable 
of functioning in this manner, if they had not given 
the screen that much cooperation, motion pictures 
would have been so stupid, so meaningless, they never 
would have attracted an audience. But our imagina- 
tions did function (I have said all this before in a 
score of different SPECTATORS) without any help 
from our brains, thus making the picture house a 
haven of mental and physical rest, a place of escape 
from the real world, a dream world in which silent 
shadows floated past our eyes and gave our imagina- 
tions pictures to play with — a little world filled with 
music which only our emotions heard. The screen 
gave us the strongest illusion of reality ever achieved 
by any art, and it pleased us because we pleased our- 
selves with it. 

Then Came the Talkies . . . 

I I7HEN sound came to the screen, everything was 
Tf changed. Hollywood went into an entirely new 
business. It made a fundamental change in the nature 
of its product. It dismissed imagination, its greatest 
box-office ally, and itself told the stories we hitherto 
had told ourselves. It eliminated the music which 
had created the mood of what it had shown, and 
strived unsuccessfully to manufacture moods in its 
studios. It changed its form of entertainment from 
emotional to intellectual; it made us listen to stories 
with our ears instead of permitting us to tell them 
with our imaginations. All this made it necessary for 
us to shop around for such pictures as we thought 
would entertain us. In the silent days we took the 
children, for they could imagine things to please 
them just as we did, but we could not take them to 
the talkies which left nothing to the imagination. 
They too had to shop. The talking device, which 
could have been used as a practical aid to screen art, 
was used to murder it. And to this day not a pro- 
ducer who used to make silent pictures is aware of the 
fact that he now is in a totally different business. It 
is gracious of Mr. Zukor to acknowledge we now 
shop for our screen entertainment, but it would mean 


more to the holders of stock in his company if he 
would make an effort to ascertain and understand the 
reason why. 

* * * 

ONE COURAGEOUS PRODUCER . . . 

AJO one can accuse Hal Wallis of not having nerve. 
IT.The daring production chief at Warners has ord- 
ered into production a picture which is going to 
make fake-accident crooks awfully mad at him. He 
will expose them and their methods. If he comes 
through that unscathed, he may go as far as expos- 
ing those who cheat at croquet. Little things like 
war, political corruption and similar social ills, are 
not worth bothering about. The film industry must 
tackle the big things first. For instance, take the hab- 
it school children have of sticking chewing gum on 
the undersides of their desks. Something must be 
done about that before the film industry can bother 

about a trivial thing like an anti-war picture. 

* * * 


CRITICIZING A CRITIC . . . 

I TTHEN a critic records his honest opinion of the 
rT merits of the thing criticized, he can not be 
charged with being wrong even if all other critics 
disagree with him. If a critic of a motion picture 
condemns it, he is right in that to him it is a poor 
picture deserving condemnation. Another critic, in 
praising the same picture, is right for the same reason; 
he sees it as a good picture. A Daily Variety critic 
characterizes as “banal and insignificant,” The Man 
Who Cried Wolf, which in my criticism last week I 
praised highly; but I can not say the Variety 
critic is wrong. He is as much entitled to his opinion 
as I am to mine. But I am within my rights when 
I challenge the grounds upon which he bases his con- 
clusions. In course of his criticism we find, “. . . 
dialogue painfully devoid of sparkle . . . fail to dis- 
cover an inspired line or witty bit of dialogue.” The 
Universal picture is a serious psychological drama 
which derives its strength from its integrity, from its 
honest and consistent adherence to theme and faith- 
ful maintenance of its mood. A “witty bit of dia- 
logue” would have disturbed its mood, would have 
been as much out of place as a comedy monologue at 
a trial for murder. A critic is not justified in con- 
demning a thoughtful, penetrating drama on the 
ground that it did not make him laugh. This pic- 
ture was not intended as an incitement of laughter. 
That is the mission of a comedy, and if the Variety 
critic viewed it from a comedy standpoint, I agree 
heartily with his conclusions. I, also, saw nothing 
in it to laugh at, failed also to detect an “inspired 
line,” heard only serious speeches which combined to 
be an impressive exposition of the theme of the story. 


Origin of Wise-Cracking . . . 

II l HEN we are viewing a screen offering, we should 
rT be conscious only of the story. Players, dialogue, 
settings should be blended in a manner to center our 
attention on the creation as a whole. Anything has a 


Page Four 


September 18, 1937 


place in it that is there by demand of the creation it- 
self. A wise-cracking character must wise-crack to 
keep the pattern harmonious; but in this Universal 
picture none of the characters was of the wise-crack- 
ing variety, and any lines included to make laughter 
would have disturbed the pattern’s harmony. Screen 
wise-cracking had its genesis in the days of silent pic- 
tures. Gilbert Seldes, in his The Movies and the 
Talkies summed it up this way: “Because Anita 

Loos wrote witty lines and C. Gardner Sullivan had 
a flamboyant style which appealed to Griffith, the 
title became an end in itself as part of the entertain- 
ment and as part of the story, until, with all their 
imitators working very hard, the directors of films 
began to depend on them to do what the camera it- 
self should have done, and the titles gave long dia- 
logues, or told about action, or attempted to estab- 
lish a mood — all of which was the business of the 
camera.’’ Seldes’ book was published in 1929. Prior 
to that — in the SPECTATOR of May 15, 1926 — I 
had my say about wise-cracking titles: “I feel they 
do not belong in pictures. They necessitate a thought 
process different from that involved in following the 
story as told by the scenes.’’ The same criticism ap- 
plies to wise-cracking dialogue in talkies. 

* * * 

HOW TO UNMAKE AN ACTRESS . . . 

PARAGRAPH in a recent Daily Variety has a 
sermon hidden in it. It tells of a little girl who 
found herself in Sam Briskin’s office at RKO without 
being aware she was in the presence of the big chief 
of the studio. “She perched on his desk and was her 
natural self,’’ says Variety, “and before she got out 
Briskin had tied her to a playing contract.” The 
whole problem of the miss will be the presentation 
on the screen of the personality which captured Sam’s 
fancy. But no doubt the studio will try to make an 
actress out of her, will teach her to express herself 
with tricks instead of with personality, with the re- 
sult that her first option will not be taken up. 

* * * 

ONE IN A THOUSAND . . . 

O NE young man who has my sympathy is Robert 
Taylor. Catapulted from obscurity to worldwide 
fame in less than two score months. Bob has kept 
his head and as far as his prominence would permit 
him to do so, has pursued the even tenor of his ways. 
By accident of birth he has developed into a young 
man with a regularity of features which appeals to 
impressionable young women and causes small men 
to call him “pretty.” Hounded by women, the butt 
of brainless printed paragraphs, the victim of unwise 
exploitation by his employers, his every action news, 
he still is just a matter-of-fact, decent young fellow 
whose only desire is to do his work and to be left 
alone during his leisure hours. I believe one in a 
thousand is a liberal estimate of the number of 
young men who could keep both feet on the ground 
when going through the dazzling transformation 


Bob has experienced, and among the 999 would be 
the Hollywood people whose jealousy prompts them 
to make him the butt of their inane wisecracks. 

* * * 

SHOULD HAVE EMOTIONAL APPEAL . . . 

HERE are various degrees of intellectual develop- 
ment. All of us do not have the same brains, but 
we do have the same emotions. The audience for in- 
tellectual dramas, therefore, is limited, while that for 
emotional dramas is limitless. The motion picture 
with purely emotional appeal can entertain one hun- 
dred per cent of its audience, while one with purely 
intellectual appeal can entertain only those in the 
audience with intellects to grasp it. Yet picture pro- 
ducers vie with one another to make their productions 
highbrow, to make them intellectual instead of emo- 
tional, to tell their stories with dialogue instead of 
with pictures. 

* * * 

RATHER SAD COMMENTARY . . . 

O NE of the chatter columnists, discussing Mae 
West’s picture in the making, remarks, “It took 
the Hays office some weeks to put the stamp of ap- 
proval on the script.” Sad sort of commentary on the 
business when a producer permits the preparation of 
a script with so much indecency in it that it takes 
weeks of pawing over to make it decent. 

* * * 

STAGE vs. SCREEN AGAIN . . . 

J HE screen’s vast superiority over the stage in build- 
ing to a dramatic climax is illustrated vividly in 
Stage Door, RKO production reviewed in this SPEC- 
TATOR (page nine). Katharine Hepburn, a wealthy 
girl, is given the leading part in a play: Andrea 
Leeds, a skilled actress should have been given it, 
Katharine having had no acting experience. Our 
sympathy is with Andrea. At rehearsals Katharine, 
whose father is financing the play, is terrible: we 
know the play is going to be a flop. Andrea kills 
herself an hour before the curtain goes up: Ginger 
Rogers storms into Katharine’s dressing room and 
blames her for the tragedy. The curtain goes up on 
the scene we had seen Katharine murder in rehearsal. 
Now we feel she is going to play it for Andrea, as 
Andrea would have played it. On the stage it must 
have been a great scene. On the screen it is great too, 
but does not get all its strength from itself as it must 
on the stage. The girls from the boarding house in 
which all of them live, occupy seats in front rows, 
and as Katharine begins her scene, as the pathos, the 
feeling, the quiet intensity she puts into it, grip the 
audience, the camera moves slowly from one bewild- 
ered face to another to acquaint us with the reaction 
of the girls in the front rows; we see bewilderment 
at first, then realization of the source of Katharine’s 
inspiration, then tears. And all the time Katharine’s 
lines are coming from the stage. We, too, have grown 
to love Andrea, to sympathize with her, to believe in 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


her, to resent a cruel fate’s trick in giving to another 
a part she needed to keep her from starving. It is 
our own emotional reaction we see in the faces the 
camera picks out in close-ups; our own eyes grow 
moist when those of the girls do. I know stage people 
do not take kindly to my reiteration that the screen 
will supercede the theatre, that it is the greatest of 
all the arts. I am sorry they disagree, but I applaud 
the sincerity of their loyalty to the older art. But I 
can not see what the theatre can do to equal the dra- 
matic force of the screen’s purely mechanical treat- 
ment which makes this Stage Show sequence so 
deeply touching. 

* * * 

SCREEN AND SYMPHONIC MUSIC . . . 

HEN writing my review of One Hundred Men 
and a Girl for the last SPECTATOR, I dwelt upon 
the stirring effect of the symphonic music numbers 
played by an orchestra directed by Leopold Sto- 
kowski. I wrote that the screen could present such 
music to an audience with greater impressiveness 
than it could be presented on a concert platform, 
basing the contention upon the fact that the picture’s 
orchestra numbers made a greater appeal to my emo- 
tions than any music I had heard elsewhere. Since 
writing the review I have learned the reason for the 
extraordinary quality of the symphonic interludes. 
The manner of recording brought the symphonies to 
us with a better balance of sound than an orchestra 
could achieve in an auditorium in which the location 
of a seat, in relation to each division of the orchestra, 
must interfere with a proper balance of the tonal 
quality of the various divisions as heard by the occu- 
pant of each seat. A person sitting nearer the basses 
than the violins would not hear the mixture as it 
would be heard by a person in the relative position on 
the opposite side of the house. This difficulty has 
been overcome in as far as motion pictures are con- 
cerned. Believing the matter of importance to both 
picture people and music lovers, I will allow Walter 
R. Greene, of the RCA Manufacturing Co., to explain 
the process fully. 

Multiple Channel Recording . . . 

ARKING one of the greatest advances in the his- 
tory of music from the screen, “multiple chan- 
nel’’ recording makes its appearance in 100 Men and 
a Girl, writes Mr. Greene. Recorded by the RCA 
Manufacturing Co., at the Academy of Music, Phila- 
delphia, the classical selections which Stokowski con- 
ducts with his orchestra are the most perfect rendi- 
tions of music yet heard from the screen. Multiple 
channel recording is a method devised by Leopold 
Stokowski, through which the music is reproduced in 
the theatre with finer quality than ever before. After 
months of tests and experiments, in association with 
RCA engineers, Stokowski worked out the system to 
a practical point. Multiple channel recording is vast- 
ly different from anything hitherto employed. Pre- 
viously, in pre-recording selections, it has been the 


practice to record the orchestra on one sound track, 
and the singer on another. The two were ultimately 
blended in the finished print. Only two tracks and 
channels were employed. 

Used Fourteen Microphones . . . 

NSTEAD of the single microphone used to make a 
single sound track, no less than fourteen micro- 
phones were used to make six simultaneous sound 
tracks for the orchestra number in One Hundred Men 
and a Girl. The six principal divisions of the orches- 
tra, namely the violins, woodwinds, brasses, cello 
and basses, harp and percussions, were separated 
somewhat farther than usual on the stage; and 
microphones, placed close to these individual groups, 
were connected to six separate sets of film recorders, 
all driven in exact synchronism so that individual 
recordings of the woodwinds, brasses, violins, etc., 
were obtained. Later, at Universal studios, these re- 
cordings were run simultaneously on six separate re- 
producing machines, and all passed through a com- 
mon control panel or mixer, to blend in any manner 
desired, and to produce a perfect balance of the whole 
orchestra on the finished sound track. The reason for 
the procedure is this: A symphony orchestra has in- 
herent weaknesses, impossible to overcome without 
mechanical and electrical aid. For instance, in fortis- 
simo passages, the fine tones of the violins are drown- 
ed out by the more strident tone of the brasses; the 
woodwinds are lost in the heavier passages; the violas 
and cellos suffer. 

Preserves Balance of Tone . . . 

ITH each section of the orchestra registered on its 
individual sound track, it was possible, later, to 
mix these tracks so that the violins, for instance, 
would have strength to be heard in passages where 
the violins should predominate, or where their obli- 
gato would otherwise be smothered by the balance of 
the orchestra. Stokowski himself directed the or- 
chestra-tracks for final recording, using a control box 
with a dial for each of the sound tracks. By altering 
the volume of each track, as you alter the volume of 
your radio, each group of instruments was finally 
recorded in the finished track with the perfection 
which Stokowski wished. “Now audiences will be 
able to hear the works of the masters exactly as the 
composer dreamed them,’’ Stokowski said, relative 
to the recording in One Hundred Men and a Girl. 
“No one has heretofore heard these selections in the 
full beauty of the composer’s imagination, because 
of the inherent weakness of the symphony orchestra. 
The reproductions are superior to the original rendi- 
tions from which they are taken." 

* * * 

ARE DIRECTORS SLIPPING? . . . 

ROMINENT British director, Alfred Hitchcock, 
thinks the importance of directors is on the wane 
and that producers will be the dominant factors in 
the actual making of motion pictures. If that day 
ever comes, good pictures will be rarer than they are 






Page Six 


September 18, 1937 


today. Hitchcock might as well argue that a man 
who selects a canvas, buys the color and brushes and 
picks out a landscape, contributes more to the paint- 
ing than the artist who paints it. 

* * * 

WE HEAR IT THE FIRST TIME . . . 

HEN radio broadcasting begins to develope men- 
tally to catch up with its technical advances, I 
hope the first manifestation of its newly acquired in- 
telligence will be the elimination of tautological 
signings-on, such as: “This is the Chase & Sanborn 
hour, presenting Don Ameche as master of cere- 
monies,” followed instantly by: “This is the Chase 
& Sanborn hours; Don Ameche speaking.” You can 
multiply it by almost the total number of sponsors 
represented on the air. 

* * * 

PERSONS AND PERSONALITIES . . . 

RANK JENKS is a character actor whose perform- 
ances I always enjoy; an important and suitable 
role would gain him great popularity. . . . Some pro- 
ducer should make it his business to develope the box- 
office possibilities of Madge Evans, a charming girl 
who has everything that makes for success on the 
screen. . . . Tom Jackson, seen frequently as a hard- 
boiled detective, could win a prize at a country fair 
for the marmalade he makes. . . . Jonathan Hale is a 
bird-lover; in the spring prowls around on the alert 
for nests of baby birds whose mothers have been kill- 
ed: takes little ones home, feeds them by hand, sets 
them loose when they are big enough to go it alone. 

. . . I would enjoy seeing the stalwart, dignified, 
handsome David Torrance in a good part. . . . No 
one else can deliver a comedy line with quite as much 
expression as Jean Arthur puts into it. . . . I would 
like to see another production directed by Joe von 
Sternberg. . . . And a really important story directed 
by young Frank McDonald. ... Of all the noted 
stage actors in pictures I know no one who possesses 
greater elements that make for screen popularity than 
Joe Schildkraut. . . . The great success of The Pris- 
oner of Zenda is a tribute to the lasting power of 
Ronnie Colman’s popularity. . . . There is one thing 
I want to do when I listen to one of Jimmy Fiddler’s 
open letters — and I do mean booh: but we must say 
this for Jimmie — he’s making good money and, if 
careful, probably will not have to end his days in an 
old ladies’ home. ... If Leo Carrillo really runs for 
governor of the state, he can count on all the votes in 
my family. . . . Just heard of another of Marion 
Davies’ charitable acts: would annoy her greatly if I 
told of it, for not more than one in twenty of her 
benefactions is known by even her close friends: there 
is a great Irish heart inside Marion. . . . Will Jack 
Benny please move over and give Mary Livingstone 
a place beside him in the acting hall of fame? In her 
first picture, This Way, Please, Mary comes through 
with flying colors. . . . Dropped in on the De Mille 
set at Paramount to say hello to C. B.; New Orleans 


waterfront set smelled so fishy I beat it to stage 13 
and watched Frank Lloyd shooting Abraham Lin- 
coln for his Wells Fargo ; good director, Frank. . . . 
Also visited Kurt Neumann when he was directing 
Mary Carlisle and John Howard in a love scene; 
Kurt told me the SPECTATOR has taught him a great 
deal: reads it thoroughly. . . . George Lewis, former 
screen juvenile, is rehearsing for the play in which 
Sylvia Sidney will star in New York. . . . Harriet 
Hilliard has a charming, appealing screen presence: I 
like her singing. 

* * * 

MEETS WITH OUR APPROVAL . . . 

S CRAPPING a whole lot of writing which had the 
stage as a background for The Goldwyn Follies 
story, Sam has changed the locale and will present his 
picture against the background of a Hollywood film 
studio. Thus once more our most astute producer 
demonstrates his astuteness. But the idea was in the 
Warner Brothers studio before Sam thought of it. 
On January 12th last, when Sam was having his 
story written against a stage background, I wrote a 
letter to Hal Wallis, Warner production chief. To 
show how thoroughly I agree with Sam on the wis- 
dom of his switch, I quote from my letter to Hal, a 
letter, by the way, which produced no results: “At 
present all the song-dance-spectacle pictures are imi- 
tations of one another and all have the same theme: a 
struggle to produce a stage show. The film industry 
doesn’t seem capable of thinking about anything else. 
If the stage had a hold on the imagination of the 
public to justify the theme, there would be legiti- 
mate theatres in all the cities in the country. To the 
public at large the stage is about the deadest theme 
there is, yet all of you constantly present it. And 
all the time it is getting harder to think up anything 
new about it. What is the world’s most glamorous 
form of entertainment? The screen. Very well — 
make a picture showing how the adventuresome 
young hero is struggling to make a picture. The 
story is right under the noses of all you producers — 
has been for years — and none of you has seen it. 
In the screen you have a background the whole world 
is aching to see more intimately, a background which 
would make reasonable the great spectacles you now 
make unreasonable by trying to make us believe they 
are staged in theatres. The screen is alive. The stage 
is dead. Get on a live one!” 

* * * 

OLIVIA ON SCREEN ACTING . . . 

S TAGE acting consists of a player’s absorption in 
his role and his conscious projection of it to an 
audience separated from him by the footlights. 
Screen acting consists of as complete absorption, but 
does not concern itself with the projection of his 
emotions to the audience. On the stage a player has 
to act his part: on the screen, he has to feel it. That 
is why players without stage training must, in the 
long run, become the best screen actors. Of course, 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


that fact does not prevent Hollywood from haunt- 
ing stage doors in the hope of adding one to its al- 
ready too dense talent population, but when the boys 
and girls now studying the screen in schools and col- 
leges, take over the making of motion pictures, they 
will put no premium on stage experience as part of 
one’s career as a screen actor. An illuminating ex- 
position of the SPECTATOR’S theory of screen acting 
was made recently by Olivia de Haviland, the clever 
girl who is making a big impression in Warner pic- 
tures. This is what she had to say in an interview 
published in the Los Angeles Examiner: “For The 
Great Garrick I read stories about Peg Woffiington, 
who was David Garrick’s leading lady, and had other 
famous heart interests of the period, until I had the 
feel of the Eighteenth Century — its rules of eti- 
quette, modes of dressing and manners of speech. 
Psychologists, of course, explain that what really 
happens is that the actress steeps herself in the an- 
cient lore until her subconsciousness becomes so 
charged with it that her recreation of the character 
becomes an unconscious process. And, underneath, 
I believe that, too, but I know that my little game 
of pretending to myself that I’m the reincarnation of 
Peg Woffiington lends an added realism to my 
acting.” 


LESLIE AND ANN, HIS WIFE . . . 

r WO young picture people who interest me greatly 
are Leslie Fenton and Ann Dvorak, his wife, even 
though I never have seen the latter off the screen. On 
the screen she always interests me, but the odds and 
ends of things I have read and heard about the two, 
interest me in her still more. I never have read of 
their presence at a night club or wild party, but I 
have heard a lot of the things they are doing on their 
ranch somewhere in San Fernando Valley, of their 
adventures in chemical research, of their horticultural 
experiments, and early the other morning when I was 
cultivating gingerly among the tender stems in our 
bed of blooming flox, the milkman who serves us 
both, paused on his round long enough to tell me 
about Ann and a little bird which fell out of its nest 
and was found by her. It was a pathetic, hairless 
thing when Ann and Leslie went into conference 
over it. Now it is bald-headed, but its robust body 
is covered well with healthy feathers. It spends its 
days in the Fenton trees, coming when called to sit 
on the finger of Ann or Leslie, and always at night 
summoning someone to let it into the house to sleep 
in its own little house which its foster parents built 
for it. It likes hamburger. Leslie Fenton has one of 
the most brilliant minds in pictures, is one of the 
finest actors ever to appear on the screen, a young 
man who has roamed the world, who has lived as the 
people lived in the places at which he lingered; he is 
a student of psychology, philosophy, the sciences. 
But I think it is all of five years since I have seen him 
in a picture. Hollywood is like that. But I am an 
optimist; I believe everything eventually will right 


itself. I do not think such a mind as Leslie's can lie 
fallow long, for all his shyness and reserve. And you 
know I like to make predictions. Here is another: 
Somehow or other Leslie Fenton is going to be dis- 
covered. Not as an actor, but as a director he will 
gain fame, will be among the meager handful who 
will be entitled to be called great. Another entry in 
my prediction file to be taken out sometime and put 
under an “I Told You So” headline in a SPECTATOR. 


MAKES A PREVIEW RECORD . . . 

UTARNER’S HOLLYWOOD THEATRE has es- 
ff tablished a preview record not even approached 
by any other house during the nearly dozen years of 
the SPECTATOR’S existence. In seven nights recently 
it had six previews, all important pictures, four of 
them being from the Warner studio and two from 
Sam Goldwyn. And for all but the last night the 
feature picture was Ever Since Eve, which made it 
important that one should not arrive at the theatre 
too early. 


ABOUT STARS' APPEARANCES . . . 

IJOW many pictures should a recognized star make 
ii in one year? Recently, between shots on the set 
where she was working, Claudette Colbert and I 
sought the answer to that question. One a year we 
agreed was out — not enough to keep a star interested 
in his or her work or to enable him or her to make 
as much money as reasonably could be made. Four? 
Too many; would keep the star’s name perpetually 
on some marquee in every big city. So it resolved it- 
self into choice between two and three. I stood out 
for two, which Claudette thought might be too few 
to keep the public from forgetting the star; my con- 
tention being that established stars could not be for- 
gotten so easily and that to make more, a star would 
be working more for the government than for him- 
self. I recalled that Bill Powell had told me about 
his working for the government for the first seven 
weeks of a ten weeks’ engagement — some such figure. 
The country needs revenue from the income tax, but 
I do not see why the main burden of taking care of 
government expenses should fall on the shoulders of 
a group of motion picture stars. Another thing: a 
star’s new picture should come as an event of im- 
portance. Too many such events makes each unim- 
portant. And as for public forgetfulness — there are 
people the public can not forget and for whom ab- 
sence truly makes hearts grow fonder, and up near 
the top of the list is Claudette Colbert. 


HE KEEPS HIS HAT ON . . . 

JYY way of the Era, the hundred-year-old amuse- 
MJ ment paper published in London, I learn that fif- 
teen hundred newspapermen “have protested to Hol- 
lywood against the caricatures of pressmen constantly 
seen in films.” As far as I knew I was the only one. 


Page fight 


September 18, 1937 


Era goes on to print some publicity sent out by Para- 
mount and quoting A1 Hall, director of Exclusive, to 
the effect that in that picture he was “determined to 
prove that the usual reporter may safely be brought 
into respectable homes without ripping up draperies, 
cursing at his hostess, overturning the piano, and cor- 
rupting the morals of the children.” Era’s only com- 
ment is, "But will he take his hat off?” For Editor 
Atkinson’s edification I will answer his question: He 
does not. He has it on even when about to seat him- 
self at the table in the dining room of his fiancee’s 
home, and she takes it off his head. Motion pictures 
by this time must have taught the public that all 
newspapermen behave that way, and no wonder fif- 
teen hundred of them entered protests. 

* * * 

RADIO AND THE SCREEN . . . 

MONG the many things I can not understand is 
why anyone should wish to see a motion picture 
after listening to a radio broadcast of its essential 
features. The weekly Hollywood Hotel presentation 
of film stories makes them old stuff by the time they 
reach the screen. It might be strictly in accord with 
altruistic business ethics to let the people judge in ad- 
vance of the entertainment qualities of a motion pic- 
ture and make up their minds if they wish to see it, 
but it appears to me to be bad box-office business. 
Equally bad business is the constant presentation on 
the screen of motion picture players. You do not 
have to take my word for it. I can quote one in a 
position to speak with authority. William Brandt, 
who heads the independent theatre owners in New 
York, knows the show business. He is one of the 
men upon whose showmanship the film industry 
depends for its revenue. Listen to what he had to say 
recently in an interview published in Variety: "Sun- 
day nights used to be great in film theatres. It was 
the payoff session, when exhibitors, rain or shine, 
could count on some profit. Sunday receipts always 
were three-tenths of the whole week or better. Are 
they now? You ask me. Sundays are lousy, and just 
because the picture stars are appearing on the big 
Sunday night broadcasts, giving their stuff away right 
in the front parlor. Why should the public pay to 
see them in the theatres? The answer is that the pub- 
lic has stopped paying to see them. Radio is mur- 
dering the picture business. I’ve told them so out 
here. I’ve made speeches about it, but does anyone 
care? Not a darn. They say it’s good advertising for 
the film stars. They say it’s the way to make new 
personalities. For radio, yes: but not for pictures. 
No. It all doesn’t make sense.” 

5j« 5jl j|l 

HE GIVES GOOD ADVICE . . . 

ECENTLY I overheard a producer giving good 
advice to a young screen actor. “Avoid profes- 
sional coaches if you can," was the advice. "Don’t 
learn stage acting technique if you expect to get any- 
where on the screen. See every picture in which 
Spencer Tracy appears and study him. His perform- 


ances in the last five years constitute the most valu- 
able course in screen acting available to any player, 
young or old." And so say I. 

* ★ * 

MENTAL MEANDERINGS . . . 

O UR postman has 757 stops on his rural route; he 
goes hither and thither for 28 miles; each day has 
to leave his car about 60 times to ring door-bells and 
collect postage; rest of time sits in his car and pokes 
mail into the tin boxes we rural dwellers have perch- 
ing on posts at the roadside. . . . Ronnie Colman 
feeds guests a spaghetti dish, the recipe for which he 
insisted upon getting when he ate it at our house. . . . 
Photographs of my wife, children and grandchildren 
decorate the walls of my library; they are what I 
want, and interior decorators who have ruled photo- 
graphs passe can go take a jump in Toluca Lake. . . . 
Elisha Cook, Jr., is a little chap whom I have been 
noticing doing bits in pictures. Apparently producers 
have not been noticing him. If they were, he would 
be doing big things. . . . On an apricot tree outside 
my bedroom window there are scores of alarm clocks 
which awaken me pleasantly each morning — little 
birds of the sparrow family who chatter incessantly 
and all at once, perhaps planning the day’s activities. 
... I would enjoy Anita Louise’s screen appear- 
ances more if she would drop her linguist affectations 
and talk like the American girl she is. . . . At the 
moment, the efforts of Freddie, the spaniel, to have a 
relaxing nap on a garden setee are being frustrated 
somewhat by Petruska, the kitten, who, prostrate on 
Freddie’s body, is biting his ears. . . . Somehow or 
other I have to work my way down to the bottom of 
this column before I can give the lawns their much 
needed mowing; sorry now that I undertook the sea- 
son’s mowing job to keep myself fit; novelty has 
worn off. ... A dish of Mrs. Spectator’s peach short- 
cake for dinner last night. . . . Let’s see; how much 
farther is it to the bottom of this column? ... In 
the melon season I go for them in an exceedingly 
large way. . . . My favorite preview theatre is the 
Alexander, Glendale; Mrs. Spectator and I always 
occupy the same seats, last row, farthest from center 
of house; same seats at Westwood Village where 
Andre Michaels, a sweet girl usher, holds them for us. 

. . . Tremendous excitement among picture reviewers 
at the Alexander recently when rumor spread that Ed 
Schallert had arrived at a preview on time; proved 
untrue, of course. . . . Lack of modulation in Gra- 
ham McNamee’s voice in Universal Newsreels is be- 
ginning to get me. . . . Awakened at two o’clock 
this morning by the wails of a puppy some heartless 
motorist dropped over a fence across the road from 
us and then sped on; puppy spent rest of the night in 
Mrs. Spectator’s bedroom and is now trying to eat 
my shoelaces while Petruska, the kitten, Freddie, the 
spaniel, and Bo Peep, the Peke, rally ’round cor- 
dially, souls of hospitality. . . . Our milkman burns 
seven gallons of gas on his route each day. ... A 
blue jay in the locust tree — why, here’s the end of 
the column! 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


SOME LATE PREVIEWS . . . 

ACH issue of the SPECTATOR carries reviews of 
pictures previewed during the previous calendar 
week. This issue contains reviews of the pictures 
seen up to and including Saturday of last week. 
Angel, the Lubitsch Paramount picture, and Love Is 
on the Air, a Warner picture, previewed on Monday 
of this week, will be reviewed in the next SPECTATOR, 
as will also those shown up to this Saturday night. 
The SPECTATOR is printed early in the week to en- 
able it to reach distant subscribers as closely as pos- 
sible to the date it carries. 


ANOTHER PAN BERMAN HIT . . . 

• STAGE DOOR, REO. Producer, Pandro S. Berman; direc- 
tor, Gregory La Cava; screen play, Morrie Ryskind and An- 
thony Veiller; from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. 
Kaufman; photographer, Robert de Grasse; musical director, 
Roy Webb; art directors. Van Nest Polglase and Carroll 
Clark; set dressing, Darrell Silvera; gowns, Muriel King; re- 
corded by John L. Cass; film editor, William Hamilton; assist- 
ant director, James Anderson. Cast: Katharine Hepbum, Gin- 
ger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, 
Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds, Lucille Ball, Franklin Pang- 
bom, William Corson, Pierre Watkin, Grady Sutton, Frank 
Reicher, Phyllis Kennedy, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Margaret 
Early, Jean Rouverol, Elizabeth Dunne, Norma Drury, Jane 
Rhodes, Peggy O'Donnell, Harriett Brandon, Katherine Alex- 
ander, Ralph Forbes, Mary Forbes, Huntley Gordon. 

NCE again the screen demonstrates its superiority 
over the stage as a medium for the presentation of 
a stage play. Under the direction of Gregory La 
Cava, Stage Door, the Edna Ferber-George Kaufman 
theatre success, becomes a screen offering of greater 
strength because of its greater intimacy. Freed from 
the physical restrictions the stage puts upon it, its 
audience drawn into it by the magic of the motion 
picture camera, it makes its players just people who 
convey no suggestion of the fact of their being actors 
playing parts. The picture sustains, with greater in- 
tegrity than the stage could achieve, the straight line 
of the narrative. Unhampered by consideration of 
either time or space, under no necessity to assemble 
its characters at arbitrarily fixed spots whose number 
is fixed by the mechanical limitations of the theatre 
as to both time and space, the screen crowds more 
story into an hour and a half than the stage could 
accomplish in three hours. This allows for more 
concentration of audience interest in the thread of the 
story, far more close adherence to the sequence of 
events and the creation of our more continuous sym- 
pathy for the people involved in the drama. But a 
still greater advantage the screen has is its power to 
draw us into more intimate contact with the people, 
to permit us to look into their eyes, to hear their 
sighs, to accompany them wherever they go. 

Its Direction Outstanding . . . 

HE strongest feature of La Cava’s direction is his 
creation and maintenance of the atmosphere of the 
theatrical boarding house in which most of the action 


takes place. It is filled at all times with chattering 
girls, each ever hopeful of a call from a play producer. 
Under La Cava’s guidance, the performances of the 
girls who have only a few lines to speak are as mer- 
itorious as those of the boarders who play the lead- 
ing parts. Even though all of them are actresses, or 
hope to be, not in one scene is there a suggestion of 
acting. They are human, likeable girls, their conver- 
sations light-hearted and gay, but through their 
gaiety there is ever present a note of sincerity, of ac- 
ceptance of things as they are and hope for things as 
they should be. There are no leading women in the 
boarding house, no stars; all of them are just board- 
ers, each seemingly interested in only herself, but all 
united by a bond of common interests. Katharine 
Hepburn is one of them, no more important than any 
other, and continues to be one of them even after she 
becomes a Broadway star. Ginger Rogers, too, is just 
one of them, as is Gail Patrick and a score more, all 
of equal rank as boarders, those I mention being more 
prominent solely by virtue of having the most lines 
to speak. Thus it is a beautifully balanced produc- 
tion, its story cleverly adapted by Morrie Ryskind 
and Anthony Veiller from the exceedingly clever 
play, and sparkling with the witty dialogue which 
helped to make the play so successful. To Pandro 
Berman and to all others who contributed to its phy- 
sical attractiveness, only the warmest praise is due. 

Some Notable Performances . . . 

O THER performances she has given have gained 
prominence for Katharine Hepburn as a screen ac- 
tress but have not made her an outstanding box-office 
star. Stage Door will increase her standing as an ac- 
tress and make her hereafter a stronger box-office 
magnet. Always before she seemed to me to be chal- 
lenging attention to her acting. Here we have her as 
just an ambitious girl, a warm-hearted one, an im- 
petuous, positive character who earns and retains our 
interest and sympathy by the very lack of obvious 
bidding for them and her apparent unawareness of 
our existence. She delivers no lines to us, indulges in 
no histrionics — as I have said, she merely is one of 
the girls, something she still is at the moment of 
her brilliant triumph as an actress, a cinematic mo- 
ment you long will remember; and many times there 
will live again in memory the poignancy of your 
emotional reaction to it. Nothing in the picture gave 
me greater pleasure than Ginger Roger’s complete 
dissipation of my doubts as to her right to consid- 
eration as an actress of importance. Previously I had 
not been able to see her as an actress. Apparently all 
she needed were a good part and Gregory La Cava. 
She has both in Stage Door and scores a triumph. 
Her role calls for a wide assortment of emotional 
manifestations, but she proves equal to all it de- 
mands. Another of the picture’s strong assets is the 
performance of Andrea Leeds, a comely young wo- 
man who earned more spontaneous outbursts of ap- 
plause by the preview audience than any other indi- 
vidual member of the cast. Her scenes were in them- 
selves sure-fire, but it required rare skill and deep 
feeling to develope all their potentialities. You may 



Page Ten 


September 18, 1937 


put this young miss down as one whose name in mar- 
quee lights will direct your footsteps to the box-office. 

Adolphe Scores Once More . . . 

O THER feminine players in the cast so largely 
feminine, are Gail Patrick and Constance Collier 
who fully maintain the standard which gained them 
prominence. Ann Miller, an attractive girl whose 
dancing in The Life of the Party was one of its few 
entertaining features, does little dancing in Stage 
Door, but adds greatly to it by the manner in which 
she handles one of the important secondary roles. 
She dances beautifully, has a charming personality 
and complete naturalness — another screen aspirant to 
keep an eye on. Phyllis Kennedy plays a character 
role with discrimination, maintaining a nice balance 
between its comedy and human elements. Elizabeth 
Dunne might have stepped from a theatrical board- 
ing house, so convincingly does she manage the one 
in Stage Door. I would like to mention individually 
several of the other boarders, but all their names are 
strange to me and I don’t know who played what. 
But in the crowd of femininity there was no losing 
Adolphe Menjou. What a brilliant actor that fellow 
is! He can say more with a look, a shrug of shoul- 
ders, a wave of his hand, than most players can in a 
speech. There is no hero in Stage Door, no romance, 
and Adolphe is the nearest approach to a villain it 
has. The real villain is life, fate, the refusal of the 
wheel of fortune to stop at the right number; but 
Adolphe, who plays a theatrical producer, controls a 
spoke or two in the wheel, so to him the blame for 
its heartless stoppings. A big contribution to the pic- 
ture is the comedy characterization of Franklin Pang- 
born, one of our really brilliant comedians. 

MARTINI'S SINGING WILL PLEASE . . . 

• MUSIC FOR MADAME, RKO. Producer, Jesse L. Lasky; 
director, John Blystone; screen play, Gertrude Purcell and 
Robert Harari; original, Robert Harari; music and lyrics, Ru- 
dolph Friml, Gus Eahn, Herbert Magidson, Allie Wrubel, 
Nathaniel Shilkret and Edward Cherkose; musical direction, 
Nathaniel Shilkret; photography, Joseph H. August; special 
effects, Vernon L. Walker; film editor, Desmond Marquette. 
Cast; Nino Martini, Joan Fontaine, Alan Mowbray, Billy Gil- 
bert, Alan Hale, Grant Mitchell, Erik Rhodes, Lee Patrick, 
Frank Conroy, Bradley Page, Ada Leonard, Alan Bruce, Romo 
Vincent, Barbara Pepper, Edward H. Robins, George Shelley, 
Jack Carson. 

r HE fine voice of Nino Martini should prove enough 
in itself to make Music for Madame a success. 
Jesse Lasky has given the picture a handsome mount- 
ing, and the music composed for it by Rudolf Friml, 
Nathaniel Shilkret and others give it artistic merit. 
The story, not as closely knit as its material made 
possible, has a sound and new premise; an unknown 
young man with a fine voice, comes to Hollywood to 
bid for fame; he falls into the hands of a gang of 
crooks, and a logical sequence of events makes it nec- 
essary for him not to sing in public lest his voice be 
recognized and he be arrested for a crime he did not 
commit. Unfortunately, however, so much effort 
was expended in crowding “sure-fire box-office” into 


the production that the artistic quality of the vocal 
and instrumental music, and the comedy interpola- 
tions with which the picture is endowed so plenti- 
fully, scarcely will appeal to the same audiences. Mar- 
tini’s previous picture, The Gay Desperado, preserved 
its mood throughout; each of its elements fitted nat- 
urally into its place in the narrative with the result 
that the picture as a whole kept the interest of the 
audience continuous throughout. Preservation of the 
mood, as I so often have written, is the first essential 
of a motion picture, and Nino Martini’s singing and 
Billy Gilbert’s brand of comedy can not successfully 
share the same mood. 

Disturbance of Mood . . . 

T the conclusion of Martini’s encore number in 
an impressive sequence staged in Hollywood Bowl, 
and while the spell of the singer’s voice still lingers 
with us, we are snapped rudely out of our agreeable 
mood by the appearance of Gilbert who repeats an 
antic of which we previously had grown tired in this 
picture because we had seen it so many other times in 
every picture in which he had appeared. Too many 
producers proceed on the theory that as we laughed 
when we first saw Gilbert’s sneeze break up a scene, 
it follows that we will laugh every time he repeats 
it even if the scene is one in which it does not belong. 
Currently showing is One Hundred Men and a Girl, 
a picture which is a perfect blending of elements to 
create and preserve a mood. Its comedy touches be- 


May the Luck 
of the Irish 
Be the Luck 

of the Weekly 


PAT O’BRIEN 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


long in it, do not interrupt its forward progress, are 
parts of the picture’s mood pattern. In the Universal 
production the great conductor’s secretary is a serious 
young man engaged only in carrying on as we would 
expect from the secretary of such a man. He makes 
no effort to attract our attention to himself at the ex- 
pense of our attention on the story. In Music for 
Madame the secretary of a great conductor is played 
Gilbert, cast in the picture for the sole purpose of 
attracting attention to himself and to create laughs 
which have the effect only of interrupting the con- 
tinuity of our interest in the story. Not for a moment 
will the dullest person in an audience believe such a 
man as the conductor would tolerate as his secretary 
such a clown as Gilbert. I feel sorry for Gilbert. An 
extremely capable comedian, he is being made a posi- 
tive pest by the distorting of stories to find places for 
his sneezes. 

IS HARDLY WORTH WHILE . . . 

• THIS WAY, PLEASE, Paramount. Producer, Mel Shauer; 
director, Robert Florey; original. Maxwell Shane and Bill 
Thomas; screen play. Grant Garret, Seena Owen and Howard 
J. Green; film editor, Anne Bauchens; art directors, Hans 
Dreier and Jack Otterson; photography, Harry Fischbeck; 
dances, LeRoy Prinz; musical direction, Boris Morros; music 
and lyrics, Sam Coslow, Frederick Hollander, A1 Siegel and 
Jock and George Gray; costumes, Edith Head; assistant di- 
rector, Joseph Youngerman. Cast: Charles "Buddy" Rogers, 
Mary Livingstone, Betty Grable, Ned Sparks, Jim and Marian 
Jordan, Porter Hall, Lee Bowman, Cecil Cunningham, Wally 
Vernon, Romo Vincent, Jerry Bergen, Rufe Davis. 

ECAUSE it brings back Buddy Rogers, this pic- 
ture will rate some attention, but when its circuit 
of the film theatres is completed it will have done 
neither Buddy nor Paramount any good. Buddy is 
the same good looking, charming fellow he always 
has been, and if he escapes being cast in pictures as bad 
as this one, he should regain all his former box-office 
strength. The This Way, Please story is impossible. 
Buddy falls in love with Betty Grable the instant he 
sees her. That is all right; it could happen. She is a 
nice, well behaved girl who should appeal to any 
right-minded young fellow. Buddy has a row with 
Porter Hall, manager of the film theatre in which he 
(Buddy) sings and in which Betty is an usher. To 
get even with Porter, Buddy asks Betty to marry 
him; the wedding, widely exploited, is to take place 
on the stage of the theatre. On the appointed eve- 
ning the house is packed, the bride and her attend- 
ants are gorgeously attired, but there is no bride- 
groom. Buddy is elsewhere, giving reporters the story 
of his jilting of the expectant bride at the altar, and 
Betty’s first knowledge of it is gleaned from scream- 
ing headlines in a newspaper extra handed her by Lee 
Bowman while she still is waiting for the man she 
loves. Lee is equal to the occasion; he offers himself 
as a substitute bridegroom, Betty agrees, they march 
onto the stage, the bride on the arm of the groom, 
which never is done in a well staged wedding; Buddy, 
after a terrific fight with a gang of reporters for no 
apparent reason, and which leaves him without even 
a rumpled lock of hair even though he had been 


hurled viciously at a lot of machinery in a sound 
booth, comes yelling down the aisle, hops on the 
stage, Betty smiles at him — and so they are wed. 

It Is Altogether Too Much . . . 

OO great a strain is put upon our credulity when 
we are asked to accept as the hero of a story a 
young man who would humiliate publicly a girl he 
loves, to satisfy a grudge he has against a theatre 
manager. But Paramount asks us to accept it, stages 
it imposingly, provides it with some catchy music, 
pretty girls and quite a collection of comedians, all of 
which Director Robert Florey struggles with man- 
fully without making it believable. Those who like 
Fibber McGee and Molly on the air will be enter- 
tained by their presence on the screen. Another radio 
favorite is presented in the person of Mary Living- 
stone, who photographs well and gives a thoroughly 
competent performance. Rufe Davis, previous servi- 
tude unknown to me, has to his credit the most in- 
teresting interpolated number — a song embroidered 
with some startling vocal sound effects. Ned Sparks 
delivers his lines with a refreshing departure from 
the monotonous monotone which has been a feature 
of his characterizations, but the effect of his perform- 
ance is lessened by the continuous presence between 
his lips of an unlighted, half smoked cigar. I never 
have been able to grasp the comedy values of a 
chewed cigar which I know must smell to high 
heaven. Lee Bowman is a young man of promise, 


Good Luck 


to 


Weekly Spectator 


GEORGE RAFT 



Page Twelve 


September 18, 1937 


has an ingratiating presence, a well modulated voice, 
and should earn considerable popularity. Unfortun- 
ately, however, This Way, Please will do little good 
to anyone in it. Perhaps on paper the story looked 
plausible. In that way only can I account for the 
fact that it reached the screen. 


THIS HOLLYWOOD 

By Bert Harlen 

ESSENCE OF SATIRE . . . 

R EVIEWING a recent picture which took a satiri- 
cal viewpoint toward Hollywood, I remarked 
that the increasing tendency for the film capital to 
become introspective in its pictures was interesting. 
Certainly it would seem that the town is becoming 
more critical of its processes, acquiring that “aware- 
ness” which some psychologists designate as a char- 
acteristic of a well developed personality. Most of 
these pictures, however, have been satirical in tone, 
and as satire several of them have lost some of the 
effectiveness they could have had, through a certain 
disgust or bitterness that has crept into the script. 
Such is the case with the current Something to Sing 
About, in which the protagonist, James Cagney, ac- 
quires such a snarling contempt for Hollywood that 
he runs away on a cruise to the South Seas upon the 
completion of his first picture, without even inform- 
ing the studio of his whereabouts. It will be recalled 
that in Once in a Lifetime, the granddaddy of them 
all, the attitude of the author was essentially one of 
resignation, not disgust. 

Author Must Be Superior . . . 

/ N this play also the author conveyed his impres- 
sions of Hollywood principally through the reac- 
tion of a protagonist, the leading lady. She was the 
“norm,” against which the filmland inanities were 
contrasted; she represented us, in a way. But always 
she kept a sense of humor. Her dominant attitude 
toward the Hollywood goings-on was one of tolerant 
resignation, never disgust. It was this viewpoint on 
the part of the author that led us to laugh with him 
at the filmland chaos. The most essential factor in 
good satire is that the author keep the upper hand; 
he must rise above those at whom he would poke 
fun. When he lets himself become ruffled, he has 
lost ground to his adversaries. One must keep him- 
self superior if he would make another look ridicu- 
lous. 


LEON LORD 

... presents ... 

“SNOW IN AUGUST" 

By Claire Parrish 

Opening September 21st 
SPOTLIGHT THEATRE CLUB 

A Little Theatre for Professional Actors 
Nightly Except Mondays GLadstone 0183 


THE TRIUMPH OF WILL . . . 

EN in the film tales, the heroes at least, show the 
most remarkable control over their baser natures. 
Not a sign of a “pass” does Ray Milland make when 
he docilely lies down in his bath robe to go to sleep 
almost cheek to cheek with the lovely and cham- 
pagne-mellowed Jean Arthur in Easy Living. And 
an even nobler example for boy scouts was set by 
Fred MacMurray in Hands Across the Table, in 
which he spends much of his time parading about 
Carole Lombard’s apartment in various stages of de- 
shabille, and not once does a suggestive word pass 
his lips. Come to think of it, seems he did mutter 
one veiled and hesitant proposal, a boyish blush pass- 
ing over his face, but this can be overlooked. After 
all, men are men, even the heroes of film tales. 

A COLORED POST CARD . . . 

F ROM London comes an interesting post card, in- 
teresting not only because of the greetings thereon 
expressed by my good friend Tommy and his wife 
Sylvia, who form the talented dance team of Harris 
and Shore, but also because of the colored drawing on 
its face, the treatment of which illustrates aptly the 
direction I think color work on the screen must take 
if it is to realize its best possibilities. The Old Curi- 
osity Shop of Dickens’ fame is pictured, but instead 
of all the colors of the rainbow being used in the 
portrayal, as is done on most post cards, this one 
uses principally but two, a greyish blue and brown, in 


It is a Pleasure 
to get the Spectator 
Twice as often 


ROY DEL RUTH 





Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


different shades and tones, assisted by a very small 
touch of pale green on a tree way at one side. More- 
over, no attempt is made to present details meticu- 
lously, an especial characteristic of our American 
cards, but everything is drawn in a very general way, 
the design of the picture being of most importance. 

I cannot make out the form of a single book among 
those jumbled objects catching the light in the win- 
dow, yet I feel the place is full of stacks of books; 
their red and green jackets are more vivid in my mind 
than if I had looked upon a presentment of them. 
Looking into the window are a man and a woman, 
but not a touch of flesh color is on them; they are 
only a part of the sombre bluish shadow made by the 
eaves. Yet I know they are interesting persons, prob- 
ably a young composer and his poetess sweetheart, 
looking for rare prints with which to decorate their 
garret when the priest has united them. See how it 
brings out the latent romanticism from beneath my 
veneer of brittle cynicism? 

Mood Most Important . . . 

r HIS is a good drawing because it stimulates the 
imagination. In it the artist has used color and lines 
first of all to establish the atmosphere or mood of the 
place, according to the established artistic principles 
by which these elements are commonly utilized to 
create atmosphere, and regardless of what variously 
colored objects actually may have been in the scene. 
Only as of secondary interest has the artist regarded 
graphic details, and merely the essentials of the scene 
are presented. These essentials are calculated to have a 
suggestive effect upon the mind of the spectator, so 
that greater detail will take form there. No graphic 
portrayal of the shop could half so well acquaint one 
with it. This is what the best color photography of 
the future will aim to do, when cinematographers 
have ceased trying to rival nature, and devote them- 
selves to painting, using the colors that can best be 
reproduced and most harmoniously combined. 

* * * 

NEED OF PLANNING . . . 

/ F the Comedians and Leading Men plan to make 
their baseball game a yearly event, let us hope they 
decide before next summer whether they are really 
going to play a ball game or put on a clown show. 
Either might be entertaining if well done, but both 
cannot be done at once. The thespian ballplayers 



might also decide whether they are on the field to 
have publicity pictures taken by a horde of camera- 
men or to entertain the thousands of persons in the 
grand stand, 25,000 at the recent fracas, I hear tell. 
The game this summer, which fizzled out in confu- 
sion before it was finished, was put on with such a 
lack of planning or purpose, that it is doubtful if 
any large percentage of those attending will jostle 
their way into the stadium if a game is given next 
year. Everyone recognizes that a charity event is a 
commendable thing, but the people whose patronage 
makes such a venture profitable come primarily to 
buy entertainment, which it is up to the sponsors to 
deliver. 

* * * 

KEEN EXPRESSION . . . 

ND exceedingly apt is the description given by 
Philip K. Scheuer, writing in the Los Angeles 
Times, of a make-shift yarn in a musical film; he 
dubs it “an off-and-on story.’’ 

* * * 

EVER1E: Hollywood men can grow hair the 

fastest. ... I have always wanted to draw a car- 
toon of a pudgy and cigar-biting movie mogul exit- 
ing from a preview, and, with a shrug of his should- 
ers, saying, “It vasn’t even colossal.’’ . . . But I 
can’t remember for sure whether the idea is my own. 
. . . Charles Carroll, of Hollywood Hotel and other 
programs, is among the best of radio actors. ... A 


Long Life 
to 

The Weekly 
WESLEY RUGGLES 




Page Fourteen 


September 18, 1937 


KURT 

NEUMANN 

DIRECTED 

<4 Make A Wish 95 

FOR PRINCIPAL PICTURES 
JUST FINISHED 

66 Hold J em Navy 95 

FOR PARAMOUNT 


prize for concocting nomenclature should go to the 
apartment house manager whose establishment is call- 
ed The El Trojan. . . . Didn’t Evelyn Brent look 
smart in that grey-furrish outfit on the Paramount 
lot t’other day? ... I have never gotten one of those 
ritzy pencils with a flashlight on the end such as 
some of my colleague critics have been seen to brand- 
ish. . . . All my scribbling is done in the dark, but 
only twice have I been unable to decipher what I had 
written. . . . Wonder if Mary Brian still practices 
tap dancing in that little pavilion down by the lake 
back of her house. ... Of all the times I have been 
up to the SPECTATOR office I have only taken the 
elevator once. . . . Just a bounding Tarzan. 

SOUND OPINIONS 

SOUND OPINIONS 

By Don Susano 

HE August number of the Readers’ Digest informs 
us that an army of solicitous attendants traveled 
with the late Joseph Pulitzer, ready to shield him 
from unnecessary noises. He was so extremely ner- 
vous that he would wince with pain at the mere 
sound of someone cracking an almond shell. Thus 
almonds were barred from his table. Once he ordered 
two hundred of the best Havana cigars sent to the 
captain of a White Star liner because his boat dipped 
her flag when passing the Pulitzer yacht instead of 
blowing the “damned whistle’’ as most captains 
would. 

Mr. Pulitzer could afford to be extremely nervous 
since he was an extremely rich man. But how about 
the extremely nervous persons among the extremely 
poor, forced to live in noisy tenement houses or near 
boiler factories where rents are cheap? 

If the countless nerve specialists and rest homes scat- 
tered throughout the nation are indicative of our 
shattered nerves, then a large percentage of picture- 
goers must have nerves so badly wracked that they 
are ready to go on strike. 

Have movie producers ever considered the condition 
of their patrons’ nerves? Apparently not, if we are 
to judge by the hammer and cold-chiseled, scratchy, 
screeches which shriek at you from the screen every 
time an automobile comes to a dead stop. Those 
screeching car brakes give most of us the jitters. My 
wife squeezes my hand purple every time she thinks a 



Hollywood Cat & Dog Hospital 


Dr. H. R. Fosbinder, Veterinarian 

1151 No. Highland Ave. - HE. 1515 
"Where Pets are Treated Right" 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


car is about to slow down. It is only then, after 
nearly ten years of wedded bliss, that we go back to 
holding hands at the movies. 

Of course, there are some with the epidermis of a 
rhinoceros, who, while the rest of us squirm in our 
seats even at the screeching of the baby breaks of an 
Austin, remain as impervious as a chunk of granite. 
My companion one night was like a chunk of gran- 
ite, a strapping six-footer with plenty of poundage 
about his frame to cushion his most sensitive nerve 
fiber. He even had the nerve to poo poo at screeching 
car breaks, and grin at me with impudent bravado 
while I was praying that the film would break or 
catch fire. 

nUT as the film unwound, suddenly his excessive 
D poundage proved as vulnerable as lukewarm jello. 
He saw, or rather heard, the thin penetrating rasp of 
someone filing upon a piece of glass. I could not see 
in the dark how sickly green he turned. But when I 
lead him home he was as limp as a sack of potatoes 
gone soggy. 

Shortly before the screen found its voice, enterpris- 
ing movie empresarios were beginning to exploit their 
houses also as rest retreats. Here the weary and the 
tender nerves could go into an hour-and-a-half hide- 
out, in an atmosphere of peace and quiet, soothed by 
the doleful music of the pipe organ. 

In our block lived an attractive eldest sister moth- 
ering one of those impossible families of nagging, 
scrapping and ungrateful younger brothers and sis- 


ters. Naturally this frail, dutiful person often felt 
like throwing the mother role overboard and the 
blasting radio out of the window. But instead of 
obeying the impulse or controlling herself by swal- 
lowing a handful of aspirin tablets, she would take 
two dimes and a nickle from the sugar bowl and 
hurry to the nearest movie emporium for an enter- 
taining nerve treatment. 


/I ND then the sound deluge! Motion picture houses, 
which were just blossoming with the added boon to 
humanity on the therapeutics angle, suddenly went 
into reverse. No longer do movie emporiums take the 
place of rest homes, but on the contrary, prepare their 
patrons for one. 

Producers may say: “What do you want us to do 
— shut off the damned noise for the sake of your 
blinkity blank nerves?” 

Of course not! The noise can still continue. But 
it can be handled so that it will no longer impinge 
upon the nerves. In fact, it is possible to hear the 
sudden tightening of brakes without the accompany- 
ing nerve-wracking screeches. Perhaps it sounds too 
much like eating your cake and having it too. But it 
can be accomplished by means of imaginative sounds, 
soothing sounds which create the illusion that we 
are listening to the actual sounds of every-day life 
but which do not bring us the irritating qualities 
which make real sounds so devastating to our nerves. 


LEW 


SIDNEY D . 

POLLACK 

and 

MITCHELL 

MUSIC 

anc 

LYRICS 

"THIN ICE" 


In Production 
SONGS FOR 

"MY SECRET LOVE AFFAIR" 


"LIFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE" 
"IN OLD CHICAGO" 

"OVER NIGHT" 


"HEIDI" (Shirley Temple) 
"HE WAS HER MAN" 

"MY SWISS HILLY BILLY" 


(Grade Fields' English Production) 

Under Contract to 

Twentieth Century-Fox 


Page Sixteen 


September 18, 1937 


The Great Garrick 


JAMES WHALE 

Production 


FOR 


MERVYN LE ROY 



'jJo$A/toVVtL- 


10 


CENTS 


SPECTATOR 


A Weekly 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Twelfth Year 


Los Angeles, California — October 2, 1937 


Vol. 12— No. 15 


OUTDOORS ALWAYS BOX-OFFICE 
TALKIE HISTORY IN THE MAKING 
NEWSMEN ENTER A PROTEST 
CALLING TURN ON TAY GARNETT 
DOROTHY ARZNER’S GOOD WORK 
MERVYN LEROY SCORES AGAIN 
HANDICAPS OF B DIRECTORS 

... REVIEWS ... 

BRIDE WORE RED ★ THE GREAT GARRICK ★ DOUBLE WEDDING ★ THE PERFECT SPECIMEN 
MADAME X ★ DANGER— LOVE AT WORK ★ EBB TIDE ★ LIFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE 

FIGHT FOR YOUR LADY ★ FIT FOR A KING 


ONLY PUBLICATION IN THE WORLD DEVOTED 
EXCLUSIVELY TO PRACTICAL FILM CRITICISM 



Page Two 


October 2, 1937 



D I TORS 


EASY CHAIR 


ABOUT WESTERN PICTURES . . . 

O NE hot day seven or eight years ago, a friend who 
.now is an important producer, sat with me in the 
shade of a tree and gave me some advice. In the 
Spectator which had appeared a few days before, I 
had urged the big producers not to abandon West- 
erns, as all of them then were doing or threatening 
to do; I pointed out that the big outdoor pictures 
were the surest-fire box-office product available to 
picture makers. The advice my friend gave me was 
to get on the right side of the Western question. He, 
he told me, had figures to prove Westerns were as 
dead as last year’s roses, that the public was fed up 
on them, that they were elemental stuff, suitable to 
the primitive days of screen entertainment, but now 
lagging far behind the public’s growing taste for 
more matured screen fare. He liked both me and the 
Spectator , he said, and did not like to see us getting 
off on the wrong foot, “playing a dead one,’’ I think 
is how he termed it. He urged me to come to his 
office where he would show me figures which dem- 
onstrated the public’s rapidly growing disinclination 
to patronize what he called the “horse operas.’’ 

We Accept An Invitation . . . 

O NE hot day a couple of weeks ago I sat with my 
producer friend in the luxury of his private office 
and basked in the light of his greater importance. It 
was the first time I had visited him in his office since 
he had invited me to come and scan his Western 
figures. We scarcely had our pipes going nicely be- 
fore he asked me if I knew where he could find a 
young fellow who could be developed into a Western 
star. It was his intention, he informed me, to show 
all other producers just how horse operas should be 
made. First, he wanted a good looking young fel- 
low who could both ride and sing; then he was go- 
ing far afield for his locales to bring new scenery to 
the screen, was going to spend as much money on a 
Western as was spent on the average A picture — in 
short, was going to make only class A Westerns. But 
did I know any available young man? I told him I 
had come to his office to see the figures which dem- 
onstrated definitely that Westerns were dead. That 
did not bother him a bit. He countered with the 
claim that what he said years ago was true then, and 
trotted out the old standby — public taste has changed 
since then. 


Matter of First Importance . . . 

O NE of the serious ailments from which screen en- 
tertainment suffers is its producers’ purely ob- 
jective approach to the selection of story material. 
They think it is the story which entertains their audi- 
ence. They have no analytical sense and would not 
understand what you meant if you told them it is 
the medium, not the story, which is the matter of 
first importance. They translate their story material 
in terms of physical action instead of in terms of 
human impulses. They wear threadbare one story 
idea and hide their folly behind their claim that the 
public changes its mind so often no one could be ex- 
pected to keep up with it. As I have written at vari- 
ous times in the past, the one fixed, unchangeable, 
undeviating factor affecting pictures is the audience. 
The public never changes. It has superficial shifts of 
fancy; in the fall it will go for football pictures; 
with war on its mind, it may be attracted by the 
series of Shanghai films now being shot; but each of 
these topical pictures to be successful must appeal, as 
must all other pictures, to the one thing in man which 
never changes, his fundamental human emotions. 
When Westerns were the outstanding money-mak- 
ing pictures, they appealed to something in us which 
still is in us. We have not changed, but the Westerns 
have. 

Why Westerns Are Winners . . . 

O NE factor in the decline of Westerns was their pro- 
ducers' ignorance of the reason for their former 
success. As I have said, the producers’ approach to 
them was objective. If a picture showing its star 
riding a white horse, became a box-office success, 
throughout Hollywood would spread the word that 
there had been another shift in the fickle fancy of the 
public and that hereafter it would accept only West- 
erns in which heroes rode white horses. It was in- 
evitable that pictures made with so deep an ignorance 
of the fundamental appeal of the theme, finally 
would be spurned by the public. The big producers 
got tired of making them and the little fellows made 
them from one pattern. And through it all. West- 
erns survived as one of the film industry’s known 
assets. But they are gaining renewed studio recogni- 
tion slowly. If those who set the studio programs 
understood the medium in which they work. West- 
ern pictures regularly would play the biggest film 


HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published weekly at Los Angeles, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, president; 
Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars the year; 
two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies ten cents. Entered as Second Class Matter, September 7, 1937, at the Post 
Office at Los Angeles, California, under the act of Congress of March 3, 1879. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Three 


(3 Wv*’*T' 


houses in the world. Some day there will arise a 
producer with brains enough to grasp why Westerns 
can be the biggest box-office bets. But as I made the 
same assertion in a Spectator eleven years ago, I can 
place no time limit on my present prediction. West- 
erns are good box-office because they are elemental, 
primitive; because we can project ourselves into them. 
When we see a gangster on the screen pursued by a 
G-man, we have no inclination to cast ourselves in 
either role; but when we see a gay cowboy astride a 
good pony, dashing down a trail in the great, clean, 
sweet-smelling and boundless West — Oh, boy, that’s 
something we’d like to do! To the factory worker 
in New Jersey the sight of our Western mountains 
and plains comes like a vision of a promised land. 
The combined esthetic and physical appeal of West- 
erns gives our emotions a wide range of reaction. 

* * * 

WHEN TAY MADE HIS BOW . . . 

INE years ago this month I reviewed the first pic- 
ture directed by a young fellow whom previously 
I had known only as a screen writer. “Tay Garnett 
is an intelligent young man,” I wrote. ‘‘I have seen 
his first picture, Celebrity, and there is enough merit 
in it to indicate he is going to be a credit to his new 
profession. ... He has the necessary ability, and no 
doubt will acquire courage to strike out for himself 
and follow where his intelligence leads.” All I knew 
of Tay then was what I saw reflected in his first pic- 
ture. Today all the studios are competing for his 
services, but already he has “struck out for himself” 
by taking a trip around the world, “following where 
his intelligence led,” to secure backgrounds for two 
pictures which he will make on his own as soon as 
he can resist the tempting bait dangled before his eyes 
by producers to tempt him to make pictures for them 
before branching out for himself as a producer-direc- 
tor. The interesting thing about my prediction is 
that it was six years after I made it that Tay first got 
it into his head to strike out for himself and prove 
me a good prophet. As Spectator readers know, I 
have a well developed prediction complex, but in all 
the years of its indulgence I can recall none other I 
made that was quite such a long shot as the one con- 
cerning Tay’s future. 

* * * 

PLAYERS AND THE CRITICS . . . 

FTER a preview, five of us who have been writ- 
ing about motion pictures for years, found our- 
selves together in an ice cream place. During the 
shop-talk someone mentioned that he had received a 
very nice letter from one of the supporting players in 
a picture he had reviewed, the note conveying thanks 
for the reviewer’s kind remarks about the player’s 
performance. We compared notes and discovered that 
all of us remember those from whom such evidences 
of appreciation come, and watch their work there- 
after with greater interest. The interesting thing 
about our discussion, though, was the discovery that 
none of us receives more than two or three such let- 
ters in the course of a year, although most of us re- 


view more than two hundred pictures annually. Pub- 
licity departments in studios and press agents of play- 
ers are a rather dull lot. We expect players to take it 
for granted that critics should be humbly grateful for 
the privilege of saying kind things about their per- 
formances, but one would think that people paid for 
exploiting picture talent would have enough brains to 
see that the players ingratiated themselves with re- 
viewers by being thoughtful enough to express their 
appreciation of particularly favorable comments on 
their work. Most of my few letters come from young 
players who not yet have grown so great they feel it 
is I who should thank them. 

* * * 

GENTLEMEN OF THE PRESS . . . 

ERRY RAMS AYE, editor of the Motion Picture 
Herald, pokes a mild finger into the fuss being 
kicked up by newspapermen over the manner in 
which members of their profession have been charac- 
terized in various motion pictures. As far as I know, 
the SPECTATOR was the first to enter a protest 
against showing editors and reporters on the screen 
as (quoting Douglas Churchill in New York 
Times), “crooked, unethetical, heartless, boorish, 
drunken and corrupt fellows, ill-mannered and ill- 
tempered, with an exaggerated idea of their im- 
portance and their calling.” The Spectator’s wail 
was a lone one at first, but by now it has become a 
mighty chorus of newspapers all over the country. 
Ramsaye advises the film industry to make an effort 
to square itself by exploiting what he terms, “the 
glamours, poignancies and dramas of the life of the 
great commonality of normal folks,” and he goes 
on to say, “So this is in nomination of the country 
editor, friend of the people and a pretty big, import- 
ant fellow in several thousand little towns. . . . 
Among the heroes of America are the country editors 
who not as a class have come to fame.” As the son 
of a country editor, I wish to second the nomination. 
And to advance the matter one more step, I cast 
Lionel Barrymore in the part of the country editor. 
He played such a role in Ah, Wilderness!, but the 
picture was not about him. 

* * * 

TALKIE HISTORY IN THE MAKING . . . 

N incident in talkie history: Nine years ago, in a 
Pullman drawing-room en route from New York 
to Washington, three men were engaged in earnest 
conversation. They were Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky 
and Walter Wanger, Paramount executives on the 
way to the company’s annual convention at the na- 
tional capital. The talking picture was new then and 
Paramount, the biggest, most important producing 
organization, was taking it less seriously than any 
of its competitors. The three executives were going 
over the statements regarding the coming season’s 
output of completely silent pictures. The new ele- 
ment of sound was not mentioned. While the dis- 
cussion was proceeding, Randolph Rogers, then and 
now Jesse Lasky’s secretary and right-hand man, was 





Page Four 


October 2, 1937 


standing in the doorway of the car, reading an article 
in a film paper. When he had finished reading it 
there was a lull in the conversation. Rogers handed 
the paper to Wanger, indicating the article; Wanger 
read it, handed it to Lasky, who read it, then passed 
it to Zukor, who, after reading it, remarked, “Per- 
haps we are not taking this sound business seriously 
enough.’’ Next day at the convention President 
Zukor informed the convention that Paramount 
would have a complete sound-and-talking program 
of pictures to offer exhibitors during the ensuing 
season. The film paper which Rogers read and hand- 
ed to Wanger was the Spectator of August 18, 1928, 
which contained a long article on the inevitability of 
sound pictures. A sentence: “Many people have 

muddied the water by hurling verbal missives at the 
innovation, but nothing can blind the clear-thinker 
to the inevitable conclusion that all-sound pictures 
will be the universal screen entertainment of the 
future.” 

* * * 


FAVORITES A DECADE AGO . . . 

r EN years ago Norman Webb, now publishing 
Box Office Digest, was rating pictures and person- 
nel for the Spectator. In September, 1927, the 
box-office line-up of the first ten in the various divi- 
sions was as follows: 

STARS 


Charles Chaplin 
Douglas Fairbanks 
Harold Lloyd 
Rudolph Valentino 
John Barrymore 
Lon Chaney 
lohn Gilbert 
Ronald Colman 
Wallace Beery 
Richard Dix 

STARS 

Norma Talmadge 
Greta Garbo 
Lilian Gish 
Clara Bow 
Colleen Moore 
Mary Pickford 
Marion Davies 
Bebe Daniels 
Vilma Banky 
Norma Shearer 


FEATURED 
Antonio Moreno 
loan Crawford 
Jack Mulhall 
Lois Moran 
Rene Adoree 
Belle Bennett 
Sally O'Neil 
Dorothy MacKail 
Charlie Ray 
Louise Dresser 

DIRECTORS 
King Vidor 
Fred Niblo 
Clarence Brown 
Cecil B. de Mille 
George Fitzmaurice 
Edward Sutherland 
Henry King 
Eric von Stroheim 
Clarence Badger 
Tod Browning 

* * * 


WRITERS 
Fred de Gresac 
Bess Meredyth 
Laurence Stallings 
Frances Marion 
John McDermott 
Lenore Coffee 
Dorothy Farnum 
Elliott Clawson 
Hans Craly 
Ben Glazer 

SUPERVISORS 
Irving Thalberg 
John W. Considine, Jr. 
Sam Goldwyn 
W. R. Sheehan 
Ben Schulberg 
Lloyd Sheldon 
Ralph Block 
Jack Warner 
Julian Johnson 
Eric Pommer 


EXCESS FOOTAGE EXPENSIVE . . . 

117HEN Souls At Sea was previewed it was too long 
ff for general release. I caught most of it again 
while attending another preview at the Paramount 
Theatre. A long courtroom sequence, which was 
given more footage in the previewed picture than 
was justified by its value to the story, was reduced to 
only a few feet of film showing Gary Cooper being 
cleared of the crime for which he had been tried. Un- 
fortunately, however, in cutting out so much of the 
trial sequence there was eliminated also the footage 
which explained the charge upon which he was be- 
ing tried. Those who saw the picture at the Para- 
mount must still be wondering why Gary was placed 
on trial. If the critics who were invited to the pre- 


view had been shown the picture in its abbreviated 
form, their praise probably would not have been as 
generous as they gave the version they saw. Pro- 
ducers never will get me to believe a screen story can- 
not be cut to release length in the script. Hollywood 
spends each year an aggregate of millions of dollars 
in exposing film which does not reach the screen. I 
do not see why the plans for a picture can not be as 
explicit as those for a house. Some months ago a 
producer asked me to read a script. I entertained my- 
self by estimating the footage there would be in the 
picture if everything in the script were shot. It came 
to 18,000 feet. Some of the sequences were eliminat- 
ed from the script, but not as many as I suggested. 
In the first rough cut of the film there were 14,000 
feet. It finally was reduced to about 8,000 in the re- 
leased print. No one can pursuade me that that is 
efficient picture making. 

* * * 

PERSONS AND PERSONALITIES . . . 

f AURICE CHEVALIER would be a big Ameri- 
can box-office player yet if he had been handled 
intelligently while here. ... I am still waiting for 
some producer to give Julie Hayden the big part that 
will allow her to show what a fine actress she is; 
when there are girls like Julie available, it is idiotic 
for studio scouts to scour the country for new faces. 

. . . My hat is off to Jack Barrymore; younger than 
he has looked for years, alert, vigorous, going about 
the business of making a living at his trade, content 
to do a good job and let someone else get the top 
billing. ... C. B. deMille is thorough in all things; 
watched him the other day directing three of his 
people for a still photograph with all the meticulous 
care he exercises when directing a shot for his picture. 
... I still am waiting for some producer to reveal 
box-office intelligence by giving Jack Mulhall a big 
part; it means something when an audience applauds 
a bit player as soon as it sees his face, and that is 
what always is happening to Jack. . . . Others I 
would like to see: Sara Haden in a part which would 
allow her to show what a really fine actress she is; 
Claude Allister in one of those character roles he 
does so well; Clarence Muse as a sympathetic negro in 
a picture which would give him a logical reason for 
singing at least one number. . . . Harold Palmer, a 
special effects man at Universal, is destined to do big 
things in the technical end of the screen. . . . Phil 
Scheuer and Connie, his bride, back from their honey- 
moon; two such fine young people that each of them 
is to be congratulated; Phil’s picture comment ap- 
pearing in Los Angeles Times always graceful writ- 
ing and good sense. . . . One of Ernst Lubitsch’s 
favorite cinematic tricks is indulged in in Angel; long 
corridors along which characters take long walks and 
long stairways up which they take long climbs; I 
never have been able to grasp the significance of such 
shots, but they must mean something to Ernst. . . . 
Encountered Walter McGrail on the Boulevard; a 
man who served pictures long and efficiently; a 
pleasing personality the screen to its advantage could 
use more frequently. 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


SOME LATE PREVIEWS 

IT HAS GREAT DIRECTION . . . 

• THE BRIDE WORE RED, MGNL- producer, Joseph L. Man- 
kiewicz; director, Dorothy Arzner; play, Ferenc Molnar; screen 
play, Tess Slesinger and Bradbury Foote; musical score, 
Franz Waxman; dances staged by Val Raset; recording di- 
rector, Cedric Gibbons; associates, Daniel B. Cathcart, Ed- 
win B. Willis; gowns, Adrian; photographer, George Folsey, 
A.S.C.; film editor, Adrienne Fazan; assistant director, Ed- 
ward Woehler. Cast: Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Robert 
Young, Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, Lynne Carver, George 
Zucco, Mary Phillips, Paul Porcasi, Dickie Moore, Frank 
Puglia. 

HEN Hollywood lists its most talented picture 
directors in order of merit, the name of Dorothy 
Arzner hereafter must be up near the top. Her direc- 
tion of The Bride Wore Red is brilliant. Although 
still quite a young woman, Dorothy made haste 
slowly in rising to the point of importance as a direc- 
tor. A graduate of the cutting room, all her pictures 
have had that easy, forward flow that distinguishes 
the work of directors who have had cutting experi- 
ence. I believe I have seen all her pictures. The gen- 
eral impression they gave me was that she was con- 
cerned more with perfecting the mechanics of her 
trade than with developing all the human qualities 
of her stories. The Bride is her graduation essay. 
Her technique now is so perfected it does not reveal 
itself; we are conscious only of expression in human 
terms and can detect no “Arzner touches,” which 
draw attention to themselves at the expense of our 
interest in the story. Only the most expert and self- 
effacing director could have spun such a simple, in- 
timate social drama into so long a film and sustained 
our unwavering interest in it. The present season 
has given us many outstanding creations, but none 
which outshines The Bride Wore Red as a superb 
exhibition of screen craftsmanship. Tess Slesinger 
and Bradbury Foote provided a screen play of dis- 
tinct merit. How many of the brilliant lines had 
their origin in Molnar’s play, I do not know, but 
that part of the script that was wholly the work of 
the scenarists, the construction of the motion picture, 
is notable screen writing. 

Interesting from the Start . . . 

ITH no waste of time the story gets under way. 
'In the first sequence the theme is set: Are we 
creatures of birth or environment? Representing 
birth, we are given Robert Young of the nobility. 
Representing environment, we have Joan Crawford 
whom we first see as an entertainer in the lowest dive 
in Trieste, a half-starved girl of no boastful lineage 
and distinguished from the other girls only for her 
ability to speak grammatically and intelligently. A 
tipsy joker gives her money, clothes and a two- 
weeks’ sojourn at a fashionable hotel in the Alps at 
which Young and others of the upper social set are 
guests. There the problem in sociology is worked out. 
It is a box-office theme by virtue of its fairy-story 
aspect. What would I do if I were — ?” is a ques- 
tion we ask ourselves many times. Certainly every 
girl without money has asked herself what she 


would do if suddenly she found herself with an 
abundant supply of it as well as unlimited credit at 
fashionable gown shops. On the screen Joan Craw- 
ford is each of these girls. She answers the question 
for all of them. And the picture concerns itself only 
with answering the question. It fits the brothel girl 
neatly into the social life of the fashionable resort 
and does not try to make us laugh at silly comedy the 
situation would have suggested to less discerning 
producers. 

Triumph for loan Crawford . . . 

ITH many outstanding characterizations already 
to her credit, Joan Crawford’s performance in 
this picture will be recalled when all her previous 
ones have become indistinct memories. For the first 
time she is completely the screen actress, which is an- 
other way of saying that for the first time she does 
not suggest the actress. She is just a girl upon whom 
fate plays an odd trick, and all her reactions to it im- 
press us as being consistent with her characterization. 
In the low dive she looks as if she belongs there; in 
the smart resort she is as much at home as the other 
guests. Her performance is deep, sincere, an engross- 
ing study of a girl's reaction to a strange experience, 
an intelligent performance which only a girl who 
can think could make so convincing. Another ad- 
mirable performance is that of Franchot Tone. It is 
an easy, natural, lovable characterization, surpassing 
anything Tone previously has done on the screen. 
Gone is that supercilious something which formerly 
weakened his picture appearances by its suggestion of 
an underlying superiority complex. Tone is not a 
great actor, but in this picture he is a great person, 
one with the soul of a poet, who expresses beautiful 
sentiments in beautiful language, who is sympathetic, 
understanding, patient, and who loves greatly. 

All Performances Outstanding . . . 

ITH such direction inspiring them, the members 
of the cast could not fail to maintain the high 
standard of acting set by the star and her leading 
man. Miss Arzner made it easy for them to deliver 
convincing performances by seeing that they read 
their lines in the easy, conversational tones which 
makes people out of actors. Robert Young, Billie 
Burke, and Reginald Owen never were better. I was 
interested in noting that Miss Burke had to be made 
up considerably to make her appear at least some- 
where nearly as old as she must be by this time. The 
Bride shows us Lynne Carver, whom I noticed the 
night before as the wife of John Beal in Madame X. 
In her second picture she has a bigger part and is a 
decided asset. It is easy to predict for her a successful 
screen career. However, only careful handling will 
develope her possibilities. She has a sympathetic per- 
sonality, one which suggests sweetness, tenderness, 
breeding, and, in the background, intelligence, but I 
suppose it is inevitable that we will see her as a 
gangster’s moll at some stage in her career. Mary 
Phillips, whom I can not recall having seen in any 
other picture, gives a vivid, clean-cut characterization 
as an hotel maid. We are given a few glimpses of 






Page Six 


October 2, 1937 


that engaging boy, Dickie Moore, whom some pro- 
ducer should develope sense enough to keep before 
the public. 

Production Is Imposing . . . 

OE MANKIEWICZ has provided the picture with 
an imposing production which includes many ma- 
jestic shots of mountains and beautifully composed 
and photographed landscapes. The Metro art depart- 
ment provided settings of equal visual attractiveness, 
and Adrian designed some gowns which the camera 
of George Folsey uses as composition in photographic 
etchings which adorn the screen. In detailing the 
technical excellence of The Bride, I must give credit 
to Adrienne Fazan for competent film editing. A fea- 
ture which will interest Joan Crawford fans is that 
young woman’s debut as a singer. Gus Kahn wrote 
for her a song which has the virtue of having a 
thought in it, but the mood of the scene in which 
Joan sings it does not permit her to do the song jus- 
tice as a piece of lyrical writing or do herself justice 
as a singer. Franz Waxman set the Kahn words to 
music and I think the combination makes Who 
Wants Love? a song the public will like. 

MERVYN HAS SOMETHING NEW . . . 

• THE GREAT GARRICK, Warners production and release; 
personally supervised by Mervyn LeRoy; stars Brian Aherne 
and Olivia de Havilland; a James Whale production; directed 
by James Whale; screen play by Ernst Vajda; photographed 
by Ernest Haller; music and arrangements by Adolph 
Deutsch; art direction by Anton Grot; Him editor, Warren 
Low; costumes by Milo Anderson; makeup by Perc West- 
more; musical director, Leo F. Forbstein; assistant to LeRoy. 
William Cannon; assistant director. Sherry Shourds. Support- 
ing cast: Edward Everett Horton, Melville Cooper, Lionel At- 
will, Henry O'Neill, Luis Alberni, Lana Turner, Marie Wilson, 
Linda Perry, Fritz Leiber, Etienne Girardot, Dorothy Tree, 
Craig Reynolds, Paul Everton, Trevor Bardette, Milton Owen, 
Albert Van Dekker, Chester Clute. 

ERVYN LeROY has given the screen not only 
its first period-costume comedy, but also its first 
picture in which obvious acting has a legitimate 
place. The opening title terms The Great Garrick 
“A play for the screen, by Ernst Vajda.” It is a 
simple play, of few complications, but as produced 
and cast by Mervyn and directed by James Whale, it 
comes as another fine film attraction in this season of 
many fine ones. The story is soon told: to avenge 
what they think is a slur cast upon their acting abil- 
ity by Garrick, a company of Comedie Francaise 
players takes over an inn on the road from Calais to 
Paris, the purpose being for the players to amuse 
themselves at the expense of the English actor when 
he stops there for the night. Thus we have a group 
of actors and actresses acting the parts of inn em- 
ployees. That constitutes fundamentally sound com- 
edy. The Spectator’s contention always has been 
that the screen is not an acting art, that its appeal is 
to our emotions only, and that no part of its mission 
is to challenge our intellectual appraisal of the char- 
acterizations as exhibitions of acting. In the theatre 
we are entertained by acting; in the film house we 


are entertained by the stories and accept the players 
as the people they play. 

Its Premise Is Sound . . . 

HEN we view The Great Garrick, we bring our 
theatre minds, as well as our film minds, to bear 
upon it. We accept the members of the inn staff as 
Comedie players and are entertained by the manner 
in which they act their parts as inn people. Thus, 
for the only time I can recall, we have over-acting 
and spouting of lines as legitimate elements of a 
screen attraction. If the players conducted their inn 
duties with the self-effacing efficiency of real inn 
people, the comedy values would be lost. It is their 
unfamiliarity with inn duties which makes their 
efforts so amusing. So, to get from the abstract to 
the concrete, The Great Garrick is excellent enter- 
tainment because it has a sound premise and because 
all its inherent values are developed brilliantly by the 
author, producer, director and cast. As good as it is, 
and as worthy as most of the former LeRoy produc- 
tions have been, we get the impression from it that 
Mervyn is just beginning a career which will be dis- 
tinguished by a series of productions of physical mag- 
nitude, visual attractiveness and artistic merit. Cer- 
tainly one could not wish for a more lavish investi- 
ture than that of Garrick. Laid in a period in which 
men vied with women in the gorgeousness of their 
attire, when the lowest flunkey was more picturesque 
in appearance than a captain of industry is today, it 
offered the costume designer a rare opportunity to 
display his skill. The designer who saw the oppor- 
tunity and made so much of it is Milo Anderson, 
who, I am informed, is but twenty-five years old. 
The future is bright for one so young whose work 
does not suggest his youth. 

Is a Triumph for Olivia . . . 

HEN Brian Aherne makes his first appearance, he 
becomes the center of the stage, and all the way 
through he dominates every scene in which he ap- 
pears. He gives a truly brilliant performance as a 
great actor who is not acting. In the entire picture 
we see but two people among those in important 
roles, who are not of the theatre, the lovely Olivia 
de Havilland, who plays a girl of the French nobility, 
and Edward Everett Horton, who plays secretary- 
valet to Aherne. Her performance in this picture es- 
tablishes definitely for Olivia a permanent place 
among the screen’s leading actresses. Two years ago 
we had not heard of her; today, with all the assur- 
ance of an actress with a succession of brilliant years 
behind her, with physical beauty and personal charm 
in degrees rare among women, she shares scenes with 
such a skilled veteran as Aherne without asking us to 
take into consideration the difference in the ages of 
the two or the short term of her experience as com- 
pared with that of his. I am not going to give all the 
individual mention the excellence of the performances 
would justify. Nineteen names are listed in the cast, 
and it is quite beyond me to think up nineteen 
synonyms for “excellent.” Not in the entire picture is 





Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


there a performance which disturbs the harmony of 
the acting pattern which Director Whale so compe- 
tently has created. 

Whale's Direction Outstanding . . . 

HALE directs with authority, with full under- 
standing of the script values, and with a lively 
sense of humor which makes the production such a 
joyous piece of screen entertainment. Its mood is a 
far cry from that of his Road Back, and his mastery 
of it is a tribute to his versatility. All the praise for 
the smooth forward flow of the story, however, can 
not go to the direction. The film editor must be con- 
sidered. Garrick is a splendid example of skilful film 
editing, and to Warren Low must go high marks for 
that. Anton Grot’s art direction also deserves men- 
tion. The production is one of the most brilliant ac- 
complishments in his brilliant career as an art direc- 
tor. Ernest Haller’s photography brings to our eyes 
a succession of pictorial masterpieces and some rare 
examples of striking portraiture. Almost startling in 
its effectiveness is the bringing to life of some fine old 
tapestries as scenes fade in. I believe Garrick is the 
first picture to give credit to the make-up man. I see 
by the credits that Perc Westmore is “cosmetician.” 
Making so many women look so beautiful is an 
achievement worthy of mention. Music plays a big 
part in the success of the picture. Adolph Deutsch, 
composer and arranger, and Leo Forbstein, musical 
director, are to be commended for their contributions 
to a picture which you really must see. 

CONTINUES TO GROW THINNER . . . 

• DOUBLE WEDDING, MGM; producer, Joseph L. Mankie- 
wicz; director, Richard Thorpe; play, Ferenc Molnar; screen 
play, Jo Swerling; photographer, William Daniels; music, 
Edward Ward; film editor. Frank Sullivan; assistant director. 
Red Golden. Cast; William Powell, Myrna Loy, Florence Rice, 
John Beal. Jessie Ralph, Edgar Kennedy, Sidney Toler, Mary 
Gordon, Barnett Parker, Katharine Alexander, Priscilla Law- 
son, Bert Roach. 

f IRST Bill Powell and Myrna Loy appeared to- 
gether in The Thin Man. It was deservedly a hit, 
a sparkling, clever comedy which made a lot of 
money for Metro. Then came After the Thin Man, 
made carelessly and hastily to cash in on the pleasant 
memory of the thin man’s first appearance. The 
Spectator did not like it, and said so, but said also 
that it would be a box-office success by virtue of its 
stars and its title. It was a success, even though it 
was much thinner than its predecessor. Now we have 
the Powell-Loy team in another picture made as an- 
other cashing-in venture in which thinness is carried 
to the point of emaciation. Double Wedding never 
rises much above the point of silliness and has noth- 
ing to offer the public except the popularity of its two 
talented stars. A combination of comedy, farce and 
extravagant slapstick, Double Wedding defies classi- 
fication, its story consisting of a mixture of possibili- 
ties, probabilities, and impossibilities with which 
Richard Thorpe struggles manfully though hope- 
lessly to achieve something that will appeal evenly 
to the sense of humor of those who view it. 


It Is Asking Too Much . . . 

XTRAV AGANT flights of fancy have a legiti- 
mate place on the screen. A trip to the moon can 
be made entertaining. We know it is impossible, but 
if it be presented plausibly and with a consistently 
sustained invitation to the audience to enter into the 
spirit of the scenarist’s flight of fancy, the imagina- 
tions of those who see it will function in sympathy 
with it to the point of complete acceptance of it for 
what it pretends to be. In Double Wedding we freely 
accept Bill Powell as an irrepressible, irresponsible 
and amusing artist as long as his actions are consist- 
ent with the characterization established from the 
outset, but we lose interest in him when he becomes 
a clown and does things which take him out of char- 
acter and makes it impossible for us to believe that he 
would earn the love of a girl characterized as Myrna 
Loy is. And when you view the picture, you never 
for a moment will believe that Bill would love a girl 
like Myrna. In other words, you will not accept as 
possible the trip to the moon even when you see the 
man in the moon entertaining the trippers. Myrna’s 
talent and personality are not equal to carrying the 
burden of the characterization given her. It is ridicu- 
lous to cast her as a big executive, to make a girl like 
her a controller of the lives of other adults to the 
point of dictating when they could or could not have 
a bath. It is going much too far to ask us to believe 
two such opposite characters would fall in love with 
one another. They might, of course, but not in the 
manner in which the picture developes the romance 
between them. 

Mystery of Jessie Ralph . . . 

N OTHER thing in Double Wedding we can not 
believe is that a person as sane as Myrna Loy 
could live in the same house with a person as insane 
as John Beal. The clever young actor is character- 
ized as so extravagantly dumb that we can not see 
him as associating with the other characters, and we 
will not believe a nice, intelligent girl like Florence 
Rice would fall in love with him; nor will we 
believe that Florence would submit to such com- 
plete domination as Myrna exercises over her. The 
element of mystery enters into the production by 
virtue of the presence of Jessie Ralph in several 
scenes. The only explanation I can advance for 
her appearance is that she must have wandered 
onto the wrong Metro set, and Dick Thorpe — 
in any event being somewhat bewildered by the script 
— not knowing she did not belong in his cast, shot 
her along with the rest of them. If there is a more 
logical explanation, I would like to hear it, for cer- 
tainly I could not see what Miss Ralph had to do 
with what was going on. Double Wedding perhaps 
is one of those pictures which manage somehow to 
get away from their producers at the outset and never 
get back on the right road. If Jo Swerling’s screen 
play was as illogical as the screen’s interpretation of 
it, its faults would have been too glaring to have 
escaped detection before shooting began. Dick Thorpe 
has my sympathy. This was, I understand, his first 





Page lEight 


October 2, 1937 


major picture, a promotion earned by his excellent 
direction of many class B offerings. Although given 
an impossible job to make an entertaining picture of 
the Double Wedding material, he probably will be 
held responsible for the general dissatisfaction with 
which the picture will be received. Hollywood is 
like that. 

QUITE A NICE COMEDY . . . 

• THE PERFECT SPECIMEN, First National; executive pro- 
ducer, Hal B. Wallis; associate producer, Harry Joe Brown; 
director, Michael Curtiz; screen play, Norman Reilly Raine, 
Lawrence Riley, Brewster Morse and Fritz Falkenstein; orig- 
inal story, Samuel Hopkins Adams; assistant director, Frank 
Heath; photographer, Charles Rosher; film editor, Terry 
Morse; art director, Robert Haas; dialogue director. Gene 
Lewis; musical director, Leo F. Forbstein. Cast: Errol Flynn, 
Joan Blondell, Hugh Herbert, Edward Everett Horton, Dick 
Foran, Beverly Roberts, May Robson, Allen Jenkins, Dennis 
Moore, Hugh O'Connell, James Burke, Granville Bates, Harry 
Davenport, Tim Henning. 

Y old golfing companion, Samuel Hopkins Adams, 
fashioned this story on the main situation in his 
sparkling and highly successful It Happened One 
Night, that of boy and girl taking the road and hav- 
ing experiences which make excellent motion picture 
material. There ends the similarity between the 
screen treatments of the two. The Perfect Specimen 
gives us Errol Flynn and Joan Blondell as the boy 
and girl, a competent supporting cast, a lively screen 
play written by a crowd of scenarists, an ample pro- 
duction watched over by Harry Joe Brown, excellent 
photography by Charlie Rosher, and a fine bit of 
film editing by Terry Morse. Of course, even with 
all that, a picture could be a dud if the director fell 
down on the job. But Mike Curtiz never falls down. 
He is one of the dependables, has a good sense of both 
comedy and drama and gives us only honest, forth- 
right pictures of box-office value. The Perfect Speci- 
men is box-office in any house. It is a joyous affair; 
it moves swiftly, offers a wide variety of action, both 
physical and sentimental, and runs its course to the 
accompaniment of continuous audience tittering. The 
story is one of the untying of Errol Flynn from his 
grandmother’s apron strings — of the transformation 
of a meek submitter into an energetic doer. A story 
of that sort is easy on its scenarists in that it allows 
them to inject action, in essence extraneous, but legiti- 
mate story material by virtue of its bearing on the de- 
velopment of the central character’s emancipation. 

Our Compliments to Joan . . . 

E are given a roadside brawl, a prize fight, wild 
auto chases, a kidnap alarm, two pleasant ro- 
mances and much rich comedy, all for the one price 
of admission. That should be enough for any rea- 
sonable audience. Joan Blondell and Errol Flynn 
make an excellent team. The Warner studio appar- 
ently does not realize what it has in Joan. I am not 
aware of the specific reason for her present fuss with 
her bosses, but if it be a protest against her appear- 
ance in inconsequential roles, she will be doing the 
studio a favor if she remains on strike until it sees the 
value of giving her only headline parts. Young, 


beautiful, intelligent, there is no other comedienne 
in pictures more entitled to stardom or who could 
sustain it more successfully. No picture in which she 
appears could be a complete flop, and none in which 
she has a part which allows her freedom in expressing 
it can fail to be a box-office success. She adapts her- 
self so readily to the requirements of her story mate- 
rial, that we get the impression that in each new 
actor who plays opposite her she at last has found 
her ideal team mate. At the moment I feel she and 
Flynn form the perfect team, but I suppose I would 
change my mind if I saw her paired with Paul Muni 
or the Mauch twins. 

Errol Flynn and the Others . . . 

F LYNN is well cast in The Perfect Specimen, his 
athletic appearance and prowess being an impor- 
tant feature of his performance. He is tender and 
understanding in the romantic interludes and reveals 
an intelligent grasp of comedy values. The second- 
ary romance is played by the attractive and talented 
Beverly Roberts and the always agreeable Dick Foran. 
Their performances are in every way satisfactory. 
Hugh Herbert and Edward Everett Horton provide 
comedy. It is Hugh’s 149th repetition of his stand- 
ard performance and Eddie’s 262nd of his. Both 
these capable players must be getting sick of the parts 
they are called upon to play. Allen Jenkins, always 
an excellent player, but one who ruined most of his 
performances by excessive shouting of lines, is not so 
vocally vociferous in this picture, and, with Dennie 
Moore, a capable character actress, adds a great deal 
to its entertainment value. May Robson plays the 
dominating grandmother. Her voice dominates all her 
scenes. Tbe direction of her dialogue is the only 
flaw in the production. I do not blame her as she is 
one performer who can deliver any kind of charac- 
terization demanded of her. Here we have her voice 
raised to an unnecessary volume and rasping quality 
that make it disagreeable to listen to. Her perform- 
ance would have been far kinder to the ears of the 
audience if she had been characterized as a soft-spok- 
en, determined woman who insisted upon having 
her way. I suppose, however, that as long as pro- 
ducer intelligence remains in its infancy, Warners 
and all the others will continue to sell rasping noises 
to that part of the public willing to buy it. 

IT LEAVES OUR EYES DRY . . . 

• MADAME X, MGM; producer, James Kevin McGuiness; 
director, Sam Wood; play, Alexandre Bisson; screen play, 
John Meehan; photographer, John Seitz; montage effects, John 
Hoffman; music score, David Snell; art directors, Cedric Gib- 
bons, Urie McCleary and Edwin B. Willis; film editor, Frank 
E. Hull; assistant director, Tom Andre; a Sam Wood produc- 
tion. Cast: Gladys George, John Beal, Warren William, Reg- 
inald Owen, William Henry, Henry Daniell, Phillip Reed, 
Lynne Carver, Emma Dunn, Ruth Hussey, Luis Albemi, 
George Zucco, Cora Witherspoon, Jonathan Hale, Aida Kutz- 
netzoff. 

T HIS story has been told so many times that if it 
had started off as Madame A, it by now auto- 
matically would become Madame X. Produced with 
Metro’s usual thoroughness, an excellent job of direc- 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


tion by Sam Wood, a well written screen play by 
John Meehan, deft film editing by Frank Hull, and 
a cast in every way competent, this latest version of 
the Alexandre Bisson play still is not destined to re- 
ceive generous box-office support. Metro is going to 
find it can not sell stage performances to motion 
picture audiences. It offers Gladys George as star of 
the piece, and she gives it a really great performance 
which in a theatre would have moved us profoundly, 
but which on the screen does not reach our emotions. 
If I have any qualifications whatever for judging a 
motion picture, the chief one is one I am in no way 
responsible for — the ease with which a lump comes 
to my throat and tears to my eyes when the screen 
makes even the slightest bid for them. I used to try 
to be he-mannish in my consideration of pictures, 
try to temper my emotional response and coldly 
balance their merits and demerits. But it was no go. 
I surrendered to my emotional complex. If a picture 
which should make me cry, does make me cry, ft is a 
good picture even if it is a bad one; and if it does not 
make me cry, it is a bad picture even if it is a good 
one. 

We Cannot Believe It . . . 

HEN viewing Madame X I should have cried, for 
it is perhaps the most distressing story ever 
brought to the screen. But it never once got under 
my skin. I did not believe it. I did not believe a 
husband would treat the mother of his child as ruth- 
lessly as Warren William treats Gladys George. I 
had no sympathy for a wife who so meekly would 
submit to such treatment by her husband. But, you 
will argue, Madame X has made the whole world 
cry, which is proof the world must have accepted 
what I refused to believe. No incident in the play 
ever caused a tear to drop. Audience tears were 
caused solely by the manner in which the incidents 
were presented; it was the art of the players, not the 
pathos of the story, which moved audiences. Across 
the footlights of a theatre Miss George’s performance 
would have gone to the hearts of her audience; from 
the screen it comes to us as a beautiful bit of acting, 
which our intellects absorb and to which our emo- 
tions remain indifferent. Ten years ago the cover of a 
Spectator bore in big letters, “The stage has nothing 
to offer the screen,” and inside was an article which 
recorded opinions I never have had occasion to revise. 

And Still Shirley Temple Leads . . . 

E have had famous stage actresses in motion 
pictures for years, yet Shirley Temple is the 
world s leading box-office actress. Famous stage ac- 
tors have come to Hollywood in droves, yet none of 
them has gained the box-office strength of Clark Ga- 
ble, with insignificant stage experience, or Robert 
Taylor, with none at all. That surely is evidence to 
support my claim that stage performances cannot be 
sold to motion picture audiences. From the stage Miss 
George would have projected her characterizations to 
us; her appeal would have been through our intel- 
lects to our emotions. On the screen she has only to 
feel her scenes, to grieve, not to project grief; we are 


at her side, looking into her eyes, sharing her sorrow 
in the degree in which she feels it. The reason play- 
ers proficient in stage technique do not become box- 
office head-liners in motion pictures is that they are 
trained to project emotions instead of to feel them. 
Miss George gives us a powerful portrait of an act- 
ress simulating the grief we would expect a tragic 
mother to feel; a grown-up Shirley Temple would 
have been a pitiful figure feeling the grief. We ad- 
mire Miss George; we would have cried with Shirley. 

People, Performances, Photography . . . 

HERE are some screen performances in Madame 
X. Reginald Owen gives one of them. We accept 
him as the person he plays, not as an actor. Another 
true-to-life portrait, even though a brief one, is pro- 
vided by Jonathan Hale, one of the easiest, most 
natural and convincing players on the screen. And 
we believe Emma Dunn, that exceedingly clever wo- 
man with a sympathetic and charming personality 
whom we do not see as frequently as we should. 
George Zucco, whose good work I have noticed in 
other pictures, makes his brief appearances as a doctor 
stand out prominently. Henry Daniell makes a suave 
and chilling villain. John Beal plays the leading 
part with all the earnestness the role demands. In 
the big trial scene he and Miss George deliver their 
speeches with dramatic intensity that drew the ap- 
plause of the audience. John Hoffman is responsible 
for some remarkable photographic effects which the 
credits erroneously list as “montage,” but which 
under any designation form a graphic device for ad- 
vancing a screen story. The production designed by 
Cedric Gibbons and two of his competent associates, 
Urie McCleary and Edwin B. Willis, contains some 
beautiful and atmospheric French interiors which 
John Seitz’s photography makes one of the picture’s 
attractions. 

THIS ONE HIGHLY AMUSING . . . 

• DANGER — LOVE AT WORK, 20th Century-Fox; associate 
producer, Harold Wilson; director, Otto L. Preminger; story, 
lames Edward Grant; screen play, James Edward Grant and 
Ben Markson; photographer, Virgil Miller; assistant director, 
Gordon Cooper. Cast: Ann Sothern, Jack Haley, Mary Bo- 
land, Edward Everett Horton, John Carradine, Walter Catlett, 
Benny Bartlett, Maurice Cass, Alan Dinehart, Etienne Girar- 
dot, E. E. Clive, Margaret McWade, Margaret Seddon, Elisha 
Cook, Jr., Hilda Vaughn, Charles Coleman, George Chandler, 
Spencer Charters, Hal K. Dawson, Etanley Fields, Paul Hurst, 
Claud Allister. Jonathan Hale, Charles Lane, Paul Stanton. 

TVELIGHTFUL nonsense, excellent entertainment. 
U Coming as the last of a preview-every-night week 
it is just what is needed to give the mind a dusting 
out and refreshening for the next series of mental 
problems the screen will present. The story of Dan- 
ger — Love at Work is one which so easily could 
have been spoiled on its way to the screen. A non- 
sensical mixture of improbable situations involving 
members of an exceedingly screwy family, it has to 
be either hilarious entertainment or a somber flop. 
That is what makes such story material a ticklish 
proposition for a director to tackle. He has no con- 
nected story to keep our attention centered on its de- 




Page Ten 


October 2, 1937 


velopment in a logical sequence of events. His 
problem is to establish friendly relations with our 
sense of humor, to start us laughing with him and to 
let the indulgent mood he has created serve to keep 
the story together while he has given us plenty of 
fun for one sitting. More, then, than is the case 
with a serious script which can hold our interest by 
the progression of connected story incidents, is it up 
to the director to make a successful picture out of a 
script basically nonsensical. 

Director Is Up Against It . . . 

O NLY a director with sound knowledge of audi- 
ence psychology and a lively sense of humor could 
have made this Century picture such an amusing bit 
of entertainment as it proves to be. I can not recall 
having seen a previous picture directed by Otto Prem- 
inger, know nothing of his background or what 
training he has had, but he goes down on my list of 
directors whose future pictures I will look forward 
to viewing with anticipation of being satisfactorily 
entertained. He gives us a delightful mixture of fast 
moving fun. Danger is not a big production — just 
one of the class B program-fillers with which a direc- 
tor has to struggle manfully to get anywhere under 
the handicap of studio indifference, abbreviated shoot- 
ing schedule and meager cost budget. To hurdle such 
obstacles and finally to reach class A importance, is a 
herculean task for a director to accomplish. Prem- 
inger seems equal to it. He was given no big box- 
office names to make the picture important enough 
to get into the big houses, but audiences in houses 
which do get it will hail it with glee. 

Arm Sothem Delightful . . . 

O UTSTANDING in the cast is Ann Sothern, 
whose performance amply justifies her first bill- 
ing. Her keen appreciation of comedy values holds 
the whole thing together, the combination of her 
charming personality and acting ability being the 
picture’s chief asset. Although delightfully irrespon- 
sible, the girl she plays is not quite so nutty as the 
other members of her most amazing family. The 
daughter of Mary Boland and the niece of Margaret 
McWade, Margaret Seddon, John Carradine, Walter 
Catlett, Maurice Cass and Etienne Girardot, Ann 
really is surprisingly sane. Jack Haley, who has 
business contacts with the family, is driven almost as 
mad as its members. Eddie Horton, not quite so 
screwy and a lot more devilish than usual, gives a 
good performance. Bennie Bartlett again proves 
what a clever boy he is, and amusing contributions 
are made by various others. There is one song which 
shares the picture’s title. It is by Mack Gordon and 
Harry Revel, and it strikes me as having all the ele- 
ments which make for popularity. James Edward 
Grant and Ben Markson turned out a highly meri- 
torious screen play, and to Virgil Miller for his pho- 
tography, Duncan Cramer for his art direction, and 
Jack Murry for his film editing goes credit for ex- 
amples of expert screen craftsmanship. 


AFFORDS AN EXPERIENCE . . . 

# EBB TIDE, Paramount picture and release; Lucien Hub- 
bard production; directed by James Hogan; screen play by 
Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne; photographed 
by Ray Rennahan; associate, Leo Tover; special photographic 
effects by Gordon Jennings; musical direction, Boris Morros; 
musical score by Victor Young; song by Ralph Rainger and 
Leo Robin; art directors, Hans Dreier and Earl Hedrick; film 
editor, Leroy Stone; interior direction by A. E. Freudeman; 
costumes by Edith Head; assistant director, Hal Walker. Cast: 
Oscar Homolka, Frances Farmer, Ray Milland, Lloyd Nolan, 
Barry Fitzgerald, Charles Judels, Charles Stevens, David Tor- 
rence, Lina Basquette, Harry Field. 

Reviewed by Bert Harlen 

AJESTY of the sea, the lazy charm of far-away 
islands, and the thrill of adventure are exuded by 
Ebb Tide, the new Paramount picture in Techni- 
color, directed by James Hogan. One comes away 
from the theatre refreshed and stimulated by his so- 
journ among the verdant growth of the South Sea 
Islands and by some wondrous days at sea, with his 
face against the wind, a great bowl of blue sky over- 
head and stretching out on all sides the green carpet 
of the ocean. To say that, viewed as a whole, Ebb 
Tide marks an advance in the Technicolor process, 
would an untruth, for some few scenes are hardly up 
to the standard set by earlier pictures. Other scenes, 
however, are impressively beautiful; and certainly the 
most dramatic use the screen has made of color is to 
be found in the typhoon scenes, where the fierce waves 
lash frenziedly on the old Golden State and its crew 
scurries here and there in a frantic effort to save the 
ship. Here Technicolor proves itself admirably suit- 
ed to action. Victor Young has set the sequence to a 
musical score which is fury incarnate. The audience 
was stirred and responded warmly at the conclusion 
of the scenes. 

Performances Are Vivid . . . 

C haracterization, however, is the most 

notable feature of Ebb Tide. Oscar Homolka, the 
European star, turns in an altogether splendid per- 
formance as the dissolute Captain Thorbecke, a piece 
of work both vigorous and finely shaded, and in its 
effect upon the audience, both repugnant and touch- 
ing. Of equal excellence, if not even more expressive 
in cinematic terms, is the characterization given by 
Barry Fitzgerald of the drunken, bawdy, and con- 
niving Huish. It is a characterization of many facets, 
and in none of them is there a false note. Ray Mil- 
land turns in a sensitive portrayal of the young beach 
comber, and Lloyd Nolan plays with admirable pol- 
ish and conviction a mad collector of pearls, who 
rules like a tyrant the island at v/hich the others are 
forced to land for lack of food. Only the character- 
ization of Frances Farmer remains vague in my mind. 
She is smooth in the part and meets the emotional 
qualifications ably; perhaps the trouble lies in the 
story, for a refined young girl is rather a discrepant 
note on an old schooner. Perhaps the explanation is 
to be found partly in an observation of Mr. Beaton 
— that the make-up of men fares much better in 
Technicolor than that of women. David Torrence 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


and Lina Basquette are among others seen to advan- 
tage. The keen imagination of Director Hogan, of 
course, can be seen behind all of the characters. 

Screen Play Afforded Problem . . . 

OT having read the original story by Robert Louis 
Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, I cannot make a 
comparison of it with the film version, but I suspect 
that, despite the adventurous nature of its plot, it is 
heavy with symbolism, carrying an overtone of im- 
plications relative to the mind and soul. Bertram 
Millhauser, then, in doing the screen play, must have 
faced some problems in selecting the elements to in- 
corporate into it. Besides the limitations of time 
facing him — and the film is already rather long — he 
must have realized the fact that the screen is not a 
medium for philosophy, in the literary sense, but one 
in which ideas, to be effective, must be translated into 
visual terms. Philosophical observations are made by 
the characters now and then, but what they say does 
not have time to “sink in” with the audience before 
other visual impressions command its attention. At 
any rate, one feels that there is significance in the be- 
havior of the characters and their relations to each 
other that has not been fully expressed. I should 
like to see some further editing done on the picture. 
The first part is too slow in movement and too 
long. One feels that a climax is nearing after the 
typhoon scene, during which the captain pulls him- 
self together from a drunken stupor, when suddenly 
the story takes a new course, entering upon its most 
interesting phase — that on the island of the eccentric 
pearl collector, affording some gripping situations. 
The drunken scenes between the captain and Huish 
in the first part of the film could be cut considerably, 
as well as some tour de force shots, such as a gar- 
nished roast pig on a platter, and various superfluous 
scenic views. Some elimination of dialogue in this 
early part would also be advantageous. 

Film Is Color Conscious . . . 

WEAKNESS of Ebb Tide as a color picture is 
that, like most of its predecessors, it is “color 
conscious,” too frequently employing color for strik- 
ing effects, rather than subordinating it to the story. 
Doubtless some of this overemphasis is unavoidable, 
since all color work is still more or less experimental. 
Yet too many scenes savor of tour de force. There 
are attempts to arrive at impressive, perhaps signifi- 
cant, color blends in the sea episodes which are not 
altogether successful. Blue is over-used to the point 
of monotony. Changing tones of color in sky and 
sea in consecutive shots, due, I am told, to altering 
atmospheric conditions, is disconcerting, and indicates 
further problems for the Technicolor cameramen. On 
the whole, however, Gordon Jennings, doing special 
photographic effects, and Ray Rennahan, photogra- 
pher, have got a great deal of richness onto the 
screen. One has only to see the golden fish swimming 
lazily through the green water at the beginning of 
the film, which forms the background for the titles, 
to anticipate what enjoyment the film is to bring, 


and to realize the wealth of beauty that color can 
give to the screen. There is no denying that a shift 
of values is involved in appreciating color on the 
screen, but once the adjustment is made the rewards 
are great. Personally, I have no doubt that an in- 
creasing number of films are going to be made in 
color. Not that there will not always be black and 
white films. There are things that can be said in an 
etching that cannot be said in oils. 

COLLEGE LIFE AS IT ISN'T . . . 

• LIFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE, 20th-Fox picture and release; 
Darryl F. Zanuck in charge of production; associate producer, 
Harold Wilson; directed by William A. Seiter; screen play by 
Earl Tunberg and Don Ettlinger; suggested by a series of 
stories by Darrell Ware; music and lyrics, "Big Chief Swing 
It." "Our Team Is on the Warpath," “Fair Lombardy" and 
"Why Talk About Love," by Lew Pollack and Sidney D. 
Mitchell; “Sweet Varsity Sue," by Charles Tobias, A1 Lewis 
and Murray Mencher; Ritz Brothers specialties by Samuel 
Pokrass, Sidney Kuller and Ray Golden; photographed by 
Robert Planck; art director, Hans Peters; set decorations by 
Thomas Little; assistant director, Charles Hall; film editor, 
Louis Loeffler; costumes by Royer; sound by Arthur von Kir- 
bach and Roger Heman; musical direction, Louis Silvers. 
Cast: Three Ritz Brothers, loan Davis, Tony Martin, Gloria 
Stuart, Fred Stone, Nat Pendleton, Dick Baldwin, Joan Marsh, 
led Prouty, Maurice Cass, Marjorie Weaver, Robert Lowery, 
Ed Thorgersen, Lon Chaney, Jr., J. C. Nugent, Fred Kohler, 
Jr., Elisha Cook, Frank Sully, Norman Willis. 

Reviewed by Bert Harlen 

GAIN we are asked to believe — all in fun, of 
course — that American college students are a 
bunch of empty-headed, constantly mischievous, 
over-dressed, young boors, who do nothing during 
their four years but wave pom-pons, yell, play prac- 
tical jokes, and generally deport themselves in a man- 
ner which would be unbecoming to a high school 
sophomore. The true spirit of campus life, the ob- 
jectives of higher education, the integrity of most 
students, and the endeavors of the many fine men 
and women who devote their lives to furthering 
knowledge and disseminating it — all are violated, 
held up as hypocritical and tawdry; and this is sup- 
posed to be funny. Football is given a great emphasis 
and it is expected that, being released at the height of 
the football season, the picture will pack in the pub- 
lic. Perhaps the football contagion will help the pic- 
ture to draw, but my prediction is that all but the 
most superficial college students, and most persons 
who have been to college, will resent the picture. This 
false tone of the film, in fact, I believe to be partly re- 
sponsible for the not too warm reception given it at 
its preview, which was before an audience generally 
responsive. 

Some Eggs Are Laid . . . 

IFE BEGINS IN COLLEGE marks the debut of 
the Ritz Brothers as a starring trio. They work 
hard and some of their antics are funny, but it can 
scarcely be said that it is their picture. One does not 
seem to miss them when they are off the screen. And 
not a few of their antics, in the parlance of show-bus- 
iness, “lay eggs.” In justice to the comic brethren, of 
course, it must be said that some of their specialty 





Page Twelve 


October 2, 1937 


material is weak, and not carefully enough staged 
with regard to camera and microphone. Moreover, 
the story itself is not one suitable for setting off the 
trio, since the plot centers not around them, as it 
should, but about a boy-and-girl romance and an 
approaching football game. Too, they are presented 
as college students, for which they are manifestly too 
mature. Nor could some of the things they are called 
upon to do during the course of the picture be ex- 
pected to win them audience favor. A green and rath- 
er dense Indian student — whom young Indians will 
resent — comes out of Oklahoma to enroll at dear old 
Lombardy, his pockets bulging with thousands of 
dollars, revenue from his oil wells; a fact which he 
wishes to conceal, however, so that his relations with 
the other students may be on a normal basis. The 
kindly Ritz boys, though — also tailors, by the way 
— discovering his wealth, charge him three prices for 
a suit of clothes, and after being entrusted with some 
thousands of dollars which the Indian wants to do- 
nate to the school, go on a spending spree and equip 
themselves with fur coats, swanky roadsters and what 
not. Is dishonesty supposed to be funny too? 

Their Acting Too Physical . . . 

EVER have I regarded the Ritz Brothers as being 
able to carry a picture on their own, anyway. It 
seems to me they have never grasped the essential na- 
ture of the motion picture. Since their material has 
nearly always been cleverly conceived and executed 
with remarkable agility, their contributions to pre- 
vious films have been diverting interludes, made espe- 
cially so by being well “spotted,” and mostly in films 
that were in themselves above the average. But the 
Ritz boys apparently do not understand the search- 
ing propensity of the camera, what it demands of a 
player in the way of thought and emotion, if he is 
later to make a true appeal to audiences. Everything 
they do is physical. The audience never gets to know 
them as personalities, it never feels that they are its 
friends. The Marx Brothers understand the camera, 
perhaps instinctively, but they understand it. I think, 
too, the Ritz trios’ frequent emphasis of effeminate 
characteristics in their comedy is unwise. Motion pic- 
ture audiences have never gone much for such stuff. 

Production Methods Faulty . . . 

EW POLLACK and SIDNEY D. MITCHELL 
have provided most of the music and lyrics. It 
all seems efficiently done, but does not stand out, 
partly because of production methods. Why Talk 
About Love ? may rate public favor. Sweet Varsity 
Sue, by Charles Tobias, A1 Lewis, and Murray 
Mencher, is also tuneful. There are no very elab- 
orate production numbers. One song specialty done 
by the Ritz Brothers, in which they portray the 
spirit of ’76, is very effective. But as for the others — 
it is senseless to set up a camera for a long shot, place 
an artist in front of it, and bid him go into a specialty 
number. The spectator simply cannot follow the 
words, and there he sits with his teeth in his mouth. 
What can be done about it is a problem we shall 
leave as home work for the youngsters returning to 


school this month who will use the Spectator for 
motion picture appreciation courses. At any rate, 
both Joan Davis’ numbers and those of the Ritz 
Brothers suffer in effectiveness from improper pro- 
duction methods. Among the large cast Gloria 
Stuart, Fred Stone, Dick Baldwin, Joan Marsh, and 
Nat Pendleton are outstanding, though the latter 
loses his Indian accent entirely in one scene. Tony 
Martin sings pleasantly, but has no part in the story. 
William A. Seiter directed in a manner which real- 
ized all the values made possible by the script and 
the players at his disposal. 

ENTERTAINING LITTLE SHOW . . . 

• FIGHT FOR YOUR LADY, RKO; producer, Albert Lewis; 
director, Ben Stolofi; story, Jean Negulesco and Isabel Leigh- 
ton; screen play, Ernest Pagano, Harry Segall and Harold 
Kusell; photographer. Jack MacKenzie; music director, Frank 
Tours; film editor, George Crone. Cast: John Boles, Jack 
Oakie, Ida Lupino, Margot Grahame, Gordon Jones, Erik 
Rhodes, Billy Gilbert, Paul Guilfoyle, Georges Renavent, 
Charles Judels, Maude Eburne, Charles Coleman. 

Reviewed by Bert Harlen 

TRANGELY enough, John Boles and Jack Oakie 
make a good team, one contributing the exuber- 
ance, the other the grace for their scenes. Together 
they put on an entertaining little show in Fight for 
Your Lady. That is, it will prove entertaining if you 
can check your sense of credibility at the door, for 
the story, I warn, is rather far-fetched. There are 
various attractions about the film, however, includ- 
ing some appealing vocal renditions by the accom- 
plished Boles, and the charm of Ida Lupino, even 
though her foreign accent is somewhat flexible. There 
are many inventive gags, most of which are gotten 
off by Oakie in his inimitable, blustering style, a 
representative one being the comedian’s observation, 
“There are two things you can’t hide — love and a 
wart on the end of your nose.” The yarn concerns 
a young American tenor in London, who, jilted by 
his actress fiancee, goes to Budapest and engages in a 
flirtation with a beautiful cafe entertainer, whose boy 
friend, a nobleman, is notorious for his policy of 
slicing up with his rapier any men who dare to ad- 
mire her. Boles, of course, is deliberately engaging 
in the amour to find a way out of his miseries — 
until he realizes he really loves the girl. Apparently 
the situation was suggested by a recent incident in the 
news, in which the protagonist had just such a duel- 
ing proclivity. Oakie, as an athletic trainer, en- 
gineers his employer in and out of difficulties. 

It Has Too Many Authors . . . 

THE fact that the story is marred by poorly moti- 
I vated and incredible situations, that it fluctuates 
between comedy drama, farce, and slapstick, is small 
wonder, since five authors had a hand in creating it. 
Clever touches are present in the story, however, 
including the opening scene, a satirical view of an 
English wrestling match, in which the wrestlers, go- 
ing listlessly through their routine, discuss the spec- 
tators, the device serving to introduce Boles and his 
fiancee, Margot Grahame. A new song is featured, 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


sung by both Miss Lupino and Boles, Blame It on 
the Danube, by Harry Akst and Frank Loesser, a 
very pleasant waltz. Erik Rhodes again registers with 
his swaggering, pseudo-nobility brand of comedy, and 
gay scenes are also contributed by Georges Renavent 
and Billy Gilbert, one of the best of our comic ac- 
tors. Gordon Jones is well cast. The Budapest inte- 
rior sets, by Van Nest Polglase and his associates, if 
rather bizarre, are attractive and atmospheric. Ben 
Stoloff, director, has kept the action smooth, the spirit 
light. Fight for Your Lady was produced by Albert 
Lewis, who has many worthy pictures to his credit. 
He has given this one a complete and visually impos- 
ing production. Jean Negulesco and Isabel Leighton 
are responsible for the amusing original story. 

JOE CHALKS UP ANOTHER . . 

• FIT FOR A KING, RKO release of David L. Loew produc- 
tion; produced and directed by Edward Sedgwick; starring 
Joe E. Brown; screen play by Richard Flournoy; musical score 
by Arthur Morton; art direction by John Ducasse Schultze; 
photographed by Paul C. Vogel; sound recorded by Tom 
Carman; film edited by Jack Ogilvie. Supporting cast: Helen 
Mack, Paul Kelly, Harry Davenport, Halliwell Hobbes, John 
Qualen. Donald Briggs, Frank Reicher, Russell Hicks, Charles 
Trowbridge. 

Reviewed by Bert Harlen 

O NCE again Joe E. Brown comes through with the 
type of circus, a potpourri of harrowing stunts, 
gags, slapstick and romance, that has won for him a 
large and constant following. It is naive stuff, but 
good clean fun, is this buffoonery, and the kids will 
like it. Apparently many adults will too, for the re- 
action of the preview audience was one of high 
amusement and frequent excitement. I think the 
wide popularity of Joe’s films can be accounted for 
by the fact that they come nearer to filling the place 
of the old Harold Lloyd pictures than any others on 
the market. The farce-stunt type of picture has been 
singularly neglected since the advent of talkies, 
though it is essentially good cinema, of its kind, and 
will always find public response. In the present film, 
the screen play of which is by Richard Flournoy, the 
comedian is a fledgling news reporter, who, through 
circumstance, is sent to Europe to trail a mysterious 
archduke. After harrowing experiences he uncovers 
a plot to assassinate the archduke and a young girl 
who is heir presumptive to the thrown of a mythical 
kingdom. The whole thing is told in a loose and 
episodic manner, but it holds interest and climaxes 
effectively, largely because the action is rapid and the 
situations, if not always original, are substantial. 
Gags follow each other in swift succession, a few 
slightly moth-eaten, but others intriguingly ingeni- 
ous. It would seem that credibility has nothing to 
do with the case, so why bring that up? 

Some Hilarious Moments . . . 

O N the contrary, the gamut of the incredible is run, 
,,Joe masquerading as a chamber maid at one mo- 
ment, beaning the lovely Helen Mack over the head 
with a vase the next. An hilarious moment is when 
most of a hay wagon, being speedily driven by him, 


gradually falls away onto the road, leaving him 
perched precariously in the air on the driver’s seat, 
riding on two wheels. A scene in pantomime in 
which, because of a storm at sea, he is tossed from 
one side of the brig of a ship to another along with 
the furniture, is funny, but might profitably be short- 
ened. The chasm-mouthed comedian is in good form, 
playing with gusto and bringing forth all his reper- 
toire of tricks. As the romantic interest, Helen Mack 
is comely and engaging. Paul Kelly’s part as the 
rival reporter who constantly “scoops” Brown, takes 
him into broad comedy, the first role of this sort I 
have seen him play. It gives a new slant to his per- 
sonality, and suggests a new field for his talents. 
Some first-rate comedy is contributed by John Qua- 
len, seen as a slow-witted bicycle repair man engaged 
to repair a telephone. Harry Davenport is excellent 
as an archduke, and Donald Briggs pleases in a poised 
performance of a prince. Edward Sedgwick has di- 
rected with a keen eye for comedy possibilities, and 
Jack Ogilvie, film editor, has apparently done a yeo- 
man’s work in piecing it all together. 



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On Highway 101 


Page Fourteen 


October 2, 1937 


CLASS B DIRECTORS 

ANY of the best directors in Hollywood make 
the most badly directed pictures. They work 
under conditions which make it impossible for them 
to produce the best results. This week I received a 
personal letter from a screen writer who comes to the 
defense of class B directors. It impressed me so much 
that I phoned the writer for permission to publish it. 
As the screen writer had no wish to project himself 
into a controversy on a matter in which he had no 
personal interest, he granted me permission to publish 
his letter if I did not reveal his name. The letter 
follows: 


ITH particular interest I read the paragraph in a 
recent Spectator entitled “Are Directors Slip- 
ping?” You added the following lines to Alfred 
Hitchcock’s statement: “Hitchcock might as well 

argue that a man who selects a canvas, buys the color 
and brushes and picks out a landscape, contributes 
more to the painting than the artist who paints it.” 
In many cases, or, if we must talk in motion picture 
language, in the B picture case, I definitely say that 
Hitchcock is right. The artist who paints contributes 
less to the painting than the man who selects a can- 
vas, etc. If Henri Matisse had been obliged during 
the 1905 period to paint against his principles, that 
is, to neglect absolutely his decorative arrangements 
and paint a plate full of string beans in “outremer” 
color, he would not have been responsible for the re- 
sult obtained. If Auguste Renoir had been obliged, 
by dire necessity, to paint the Eiffel Tower upside 
down in cobalt, could he have been blamed? If an 
employer had forced Edouard Manet to paint a dead 
pig in canary yellow for publicity purposes when 
Manet was about to paint his portrait of “Made- 
moiselle Victorine,” would Manet be responsible? If 
Utrillo, Cezanne, Corot, Braque, Pissaro, Toulouse 
Lautrec, Pascin, Amadeo Modigliani, Steinlen, Vla- 
minck or Laurencin had all been employed at the 
same time, and had as their boss a sign painter, who 
told them what to draw and how to draw it, would 
they have achieved their greatness? 

Could Express Personality . . . 

P ERHAPS you remember the scene of Murger’s La 
Boheme where Marcel, obliged to earn a few 
sous, has to paint the front of a little bistrot and gets 
so disgusted with the work imposed upon him that 
he breaks his one and only clay pipe. Of course the 
painters believed in their art and many of them pre- 
ferred to starve rather than to compromise. In 1919, 
for a plate of soup, Modigliani painted the faces of 
the customers in a little cafe in Nice. He painted 
them as he wanted to paint them and not as he was 
told to paint them. He could have made a better liv- 
ing had he done what he was told to do. He died of 
sickness and starvation. In the silent days a good 
director could express his personality. The cinema 
was then becoming an art, and any movie patron 
could go into the theatre, and after seeing a few 


feet of film, know that the picture had been directed 
by Murnau, Pabst, von Sternberg, Cecil B. deMille, 
Henry King, Ernst Lubitsch, Leni, Seastrom, Stro- 
heim, or by any of the intelligent directors. Today 
it is impossible for anyone in the audience to mention 
the name of the director after seeing a few scenes of 
a talking picture, as they all look alike and have no 
style of their own. They are either magnificently 
produced or they are a B production. The secret of 
talking pictures is to get your people on the set, let 
them talk and talk and talk, sometimes in a long shot, 
sometimes in a medium or close two-shot, or in close- 
ups, with or without an “over the shoulder” shot, 
and then have them exit from the set and go to the 
next one to talk and talk and talk. 

What They Are Up Against . . . 

T\IRECTORS of B pictures are given scripts al- 
U ready manufactured, already cast, and with sets 
already planted, and which have been left over from 
A productions. The music for B pictures comes from 
old sound track previously recorded. Most actors, 
just as unfortunate as the director, come from stock 
— young men playing old men’s parts and vice versa. 
The director is allowed so much footage and so much 
time (I should say, “so little”). On Monday he 
shoots three sets and on Tuesday five. He puts his 
actors through somber adventures and they go on 
murdering each other, sometimes until after the mid- 
night supper. Importance of B directors is so much 
on the wane and the producers are so much the domi- 


PROFITABLE HERE 
AND ABROAD . . . 

( From Hollywood Spectator, September 25) 
.... These stories could be made into a 
long series of box-office pictures. For the 
part of Phantomas I can see but one man, 
Bela Lugosi. I do not know Lugosi per- 
sonally, but he is an admirable actor, fam- 
ous throughout Europe where his name 
would mean much at the box-office, and 
his mastery of his art is so great he could 
make Phantomas live through a long 
series of pictures, which would prove 
profitable both here and abroad. 


Dear Mr. Beaton: 

My sincere thanks for 
the kind things you said about 
me. 

I am available. 

Yours very truly, 
BELA LUGOSI. 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


nant factor, that I consider it unfair of the studios to 
give screen credit to the directors who are obliged to 
stage the kind of pictures they loathe and that they 
must do, that is, if they want to go on making a liv- 
ing. No one but the studio or the producer should 
be compromised by a screen credit which becomes an 
accusation instead of a credit. Half of the dialogue 
of our pictures could be dropped, and a happy com- 
promise of silent and talking technique could be ob- 
tained. Of course if we had more action and less 
talk it would require more time (more setups) to 
shoot a picture and B pictures would be more ex- 
pensive to produce. It is much faster work to photo- 
graph two people speaking five pages of continuous 
dialogue than to get five pages of interesting compo- 
sitions and motion picture action. Of course, I do 
not have to add that the B director cannot even do 
the cutting of his pictures — he is lucky if he is ad- 
mitted into the cutting room for a few minutes. 
Well, you know all about that also. 


FOR BIGGER PROFITS 

By Mabel Keefer 

r HE dictionary defines the word “suggestion” as, 
“The entrance into the mind of an idea or in- 
timation, originated by some external fact or word 
which tends to produce an automatic response or re- 
action.” That would seem to make the matter of 
suggestion rather important, wouldn’t it? Consider, 
then, the tremendous force along the line of the pow- 
er of suggestion that is stored up in the motion pic- 
ture industry. What are we going to do with it? 
Man always has recognized that there are great forces 
in the universe, but only as he has learned the laws 
governing those forces has he been benefited by them. 
Job recognized the force of lightning, but he knew 
nothing of the laws governing it. It is only since 
men have studied and made use of these laws that we 
have been able to harness the force and direct it into 
channels of service. It might seem that the power of 
electricity and the power of the screen have nothing 
in common; that the importance of the former far 
outweighs that of the latter. I wonder? 

Bucking Up Mankind . . . 

TI7HAT would be the result of a serious study of the 
PV screen as a medium to buck up mankind, using 
wit, wisdom and humor as the tools for bettering 
minds and hearts? Someone has said that laughter is 
the human race’s best medicine; that it chases away 


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bacterial influences and sick thoughts. Surely the 
potentialities of the screen for administering this 
medicine cannot be surpassed, but laughter, if it is to 
have medicinal effects, must have medicinal qualities; 
it must be the result of wholesome emotions. As an 
example of what the screen can do in the spiritual 
realm: Was ever a better sermon preached than that 
in Captains Courageous, when Spencer Tracy talks 
to Freddie Bartholomew about the fishermen . . . 
and the Savior who was the best Fisherman of all? 
Ramon Navarro recently was quoted as saying, 
“They haven’t touched on what pictures can do 
spiritually.” 

Esthetic Possibilities . . . 

r HE opportunity to combine beautiful scenery with 
beautiful music is unparalleled. And about that 
question of music — Shakespeare said that music can 
change the nature of a man, so maybe we’d better 
study the laws governing that force also — that is, the 
psychological effect of different kinds of music. But, 
the film industry cannot be intelligently considered 
apart from the box-office, and the question is, what 
effect would careful study of the situation with a 
view to learning the laws that govern this tremend- 
ous force, have on box-office receipts? Well, what has 
been the effect on the box-office or its equivalent in 
any other industry that has developed some great 
force and given it proper direction? And why 
shouldn’t using the power of the screen to suggest a 
better and brighter mankind have the same result — 
increased profits? 


Good 

Luck 

to 

Welford 
and the 

Hollywood Spectator 
From 

NORMAN Z. McLEOD 



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SPECTATDR 


A Weekly 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Twelfth Year 


Los Angeles California — October 23, 1937 


Vol. 12— No. 18 


What Ails the Box-Office? 

Alarming Falling off in Theatre Receipts From the General Run 
of Pictures Causing Exhibitors Much Concern; Movement to In- 
crease Admission Prices not the Solution; Remedy Should be 
Applied at Source of Trouble, Hollywood Studios. 

Strange Case of Young Actor 
Dr. Bruno Ussher Discusses Music 


Cantor’s Latest Will Be a Big Hit 


ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN 
45 FATHERS ★ 

THE LADY FIGHTS BACK 


... REVIEWS ... 

★ LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN 

HOLLYWOOD ROUND-UP ★ 

★ THE THIRTEEN ★ 


★ FAREWELL AGAIN 

SHE LOVED A FIREMAN 
JALISCO NUNCA PIERDE 


ONLY PUBLICATION IN THE WORLD DEVOTED 
EXCLUSIVELY TO PRACTICAL FILM CRITICISM 



Page Two 


October 23, 1937 



"//toTtc "the 

EDITORS 


EflSV CHAIR 


FOOD FOR SERIOUS THOUGHT . . . 

r HAT all is not well with the exhibiting end of the 
picture business was made apparent in a couple of 
articles which appeared in a recent issue of the always 
reliable weekly Variety. Here is the opening para- 
graph of one of the articles: “Theatre operators and 
distributors are a little discouraged over the fact that 
a higher percentage of hit pictures this year, combined 
with conditions in general, isn’t bringing an increase 
in total national gross over last year. Box-office state- 
ments show that while business is up over last year, 
at the same time it should be running much higher, 
in the opinion of those who express disappointment. 
Last year during August and September there were 
limited number of good pictures on release whereas 
this season there has been an unusual crop of box- 
office attractions for the playdating calendar. The 
great difference in quality of pictures should be cre- 
ating a bigger difference in gross, operators feeling 
that business isn’t up far enough, in view of the fac- 
tors that figure to make it much more. A question 
which also concerns the students of the grossing 
charts is that while b.o. receipts total to slightly 
more than last year, at the same time theatres may be 
running ahead in dollars but not in attendance be- 
cause of increases in admissions in various parts of 
the country. This thought is a bit disturbing, too.” 

What They Propose to Do . . . 

HEN we find that this season’s big array of pic- 
tures of outstanding merit is not doing more than 
holding the box-office even with last year, we can 
quite understand why exhibitors’ brows are becom- 
ing furrowed. Variety’s second article tells what the 
exhibitors propose to do about it. A quotation from 
it: “Before the current (1937-38) season is over, it 
will be costing film fans much more to see pictures 
than it is now. As theatre operators everywhere be- 
gin to seriously consider experimentation with higher 
admissions, it is expected that this added burden for 
the public will be country-wide rather than sectional 
although for the next few months increased tariffs 
will probably be considerably spotty. . . . Higher 
rentals this season, coupled with payroll increases for 
other help in operation of theatres, greater cost of 
materials and other items are making it almost man- 
datory to try to get more from the consumer. The 


operators cite, among other things, that the cheapest 
thing the public buys today is theatre admissions and 
that this is one thing that hasn’t gone up since the 
depression. Theory is that the public should expect 
to pay more.’’ 

What Constitutes Prosperity . . . 

OW that we have the situation so clearly set forth, 
let us see what we can make of it. To start with, 
I think the problem cannot be solved by an increase 
in admission prices. Say a horizontal increase of ten 
per cent is made. That merely would be asking the 
public to pay one dollar and ten cents for something 
it now refuses to buy for one dollar. Hollywood has 
perhaps a dozen stars whose names might bring in the 
extra ten cents, but for every extra dime that came 
in, I believe history would repeat itself and it would 
be just one less dime the run-of-mill product would 
bring in, consequently at the end of the first year of 
increased prices theatre operators would find them- 
selves no better off than they are at present. As a 
matter of fact, theatre operators can do nothing to 
cure box-office sickness. Only Hollywood can do 
that. The sickness originates here, and only treat- 
ment at its source will cure it. Hollywood interprets 
picture prosperity in terms of studio activity, swim- 
ming pools and polo ponies. It can point to plenty 
of each. Hollywood certainly is prosperous today, 
but in the long run it can be no more prosperous than 
the most distant box-office. An industry cannot 
reckon its prosperity by its cash on hand. Its marker 
is its stability, its ability to carry on, the contented 
customers it has on its books. The most prosperous 
companies often are those which have to borrow most 
from their banks, and when their retailers cannot 
make a profit on their goods they do not tell them 
to raise the retail prices. They give serious thought 
to what ails the goods. 

Public Finally Getting Tired . . . 

ANY predictions have been made by the Specta- 
tor during the nearly a dozen years of its exist- 
ence and an extraordinarily large percentage of them 
have been fulfilled. But one it made did not come 
true. When it realized that Hollywood had made 
complete the camera’s surrender to the microphone, it 
predicted that within a year the folly of the abandon- 
ment of motion pictures and the substitution of 





HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published weekly at Los Angeles, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, president; 
Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard: telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars the year; 
two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies ten cents. Entered as Second Class Matter, September 7, 1937, at the Post 
Office at Los Angeles, California, under the act of Congress of March 3, 1879. 


I \ r v 

b)Q \~/v\'T*y 
/ 

Hollywood Spectator Pago Three 


talkies as the industry’s only product, would become 
so apparent that producers would get back into the 
motion picture business and relegate the microphone 
to its proper place as an incidental aid to screen enter- 
tainment. I find now that in making the stipulation 
as to time so definite, I paid the intelligence of pro- 
ducers an unmerited compliment. I made the predic- 
tion seven or eight years ago, and since then time 
slowly has been coming to my rescue as a prophet. I 
had overestimated the intelligence of producers and 
underestimated the lasting power of the public, but 
I refuse to concede that the rest of the prediction, the 
part that really counts, was wide of the mark. It is 
coming true now. The public is getting tired of 
talkies, tired of ceaseless chatter, tired of having 
dinned into its ears mechanical noises of every con- 
ceivable kind. 

No Substitute for Screen Brains . . . 

HILE exhibitors are pondering the wisdom of in- 
creasing admission prices to pay the bill for Hol- 
lywood's folly, Hollywood itself should come to its 
senses and make pictures which would permit exhibi- 
tors to lower admission prices and still make the in- 
dustry and themselves more prosperous than they ever 
have been. Hollywood never has had the faculty of 
being able to think in terms of its business. It never 
has known what it has for sale. Three-thousand-dol- 
lar-a-week executives make a picture and then elim- 
inate a scene from it because a barber’s wife sends a 
preview card stating she did not like it. A one-hun- 
dred-dollar-a-week person with picture sense could 
have read the script and told the executives if the 
scene belonged in the completed picture. The film in- 
dustry cannot continue to sell to the public a substi- 
tute for screen brains. That is what it has been do- 
ing, and now, in their desperation, exhibitors are 
threatening to save themselves by charging more for 
the substitute than there would be a legitimate reason 
for charging for the real thing if they could get it. 
There can be but one conclusion reached by anyone 
with brains enough to analyze the situation, and that 
is that unless the film industry speedily gets back into 
its legitimate business, Hollywood’s pretty house of 
cards is going to come tumbling down. That is not 
just a wild guess. 

Have Been Buying Packages . . . 

O NE does not have to guess about pictures. This 
morning’s Los Angeles papers tell of the great 
sums picture producers are about to spend in raising 
Westerns to the dignity of class A pictures which 
will get into the biggest houses. In the first year of 
its existence the Spectator raised its infant voice in a 
plea for recognition of the Western and at intervals 
since has advised producers to do exactly what they 
are doing now. But, producers will tell us, the time 
was not ripe; it is only now that the public de- 
mands Western pictures. Of all the damned rot utter- 
ed about pictures, the silliest is that there are recurrent 
shifts in fundamental human emotions. We want 
variations in the package in which our entertainment 
is presented to us, but unless the entertainment itself 


appeals to something in us which our great-grand- 
fathers had and our great-grandchildren will have, we 
are apt to lose our confidence in anything offered in 
a similar package. Hollywood has been offering us 
glittering packages in the way of spectacles, dance 
ensembles, music, and with a stubbornness which has 
kept the film industry alive, we have bought package 
after package because of the outward glitter. But the 
box-office shows we are getting tired of it all, that 
we are buying only the packages with the most bril- 
liant wrappings and our neglect of the others is eating 
up the profits on the ones we buy. Apparently we 
are coming into a Western era. For a time it will be 
a flourishing era, but Hollywood will kill it because 
it does not know why Westerns appeal to us, does 
not know why silent pictures became popular, does 
not know the difference in appeal between a motion 
picture, with a little talking and no mechanically 
produced noise in it, and a talkie with little motion 
and as much noise as possible. One producing organ- 
ization which would allow the picture brains on its 
payroll to function, would find itself doing more 
business than all the others combined. And exhibi- 
tors would be able to lower admission prices, for as 
efficiency and intelligence make a cheaper working 
team than inefficiency and ignorance, pictures would 
cost less at their source and exhibitors would pay less 
for them. 

* * * 

WE MEET MR. McCARTHY . . . 

O NE day last week I indulged the hero-worship 
complex that each of us has in some degree. I 
visited the United Artists lot in the hope of meeting 
one of the most distinguished persons in the United 
States. I was fortunate in encountering him between 
shots on the Goldwyn Follies set. I was introduced 
to him by Edgar Bergen, and I must have made a 
favorable impression upon him, for in the friendliest 
possible manner he insisted that I should address him 
as Charlie, not as Mr. McCarthy. He was not en- 
tirely at ease, he told me, as he could not accustom 
himself to the oddity of wearing top hat, white tie 
and tails in the daytime, but then, he sighed, Holly- 
wood makes such queer demands on one in the name 
of art. Gary Cooper joined us and Charlie insisted 
that we should wait and see him do his stuff before 
the camera. So Gary and I were provided with chairs 
and watched Charlie and his friend Bergen go through 
their scene. In a dozen years I suppose I have seen 
thousands of scenes shot, but never before was I so 
fascinated with one. Gary and I tried to figure out 
why we were sitting there and getting a greater kick 
out of watching a piece of wood doing things than 
we could out of watching the world’s greatest actor 
going through a scene. We knew it was Bergen’s 
amazing cleverness that held our attention, but he 
himself seemed to be just another silent onlooker, 
and we had eyes only for Charlie. When the scene 
was finished, Bergen, still holding Charlie, joined us, 
and while we were talking a painter approached to 
put a dab of paint on Charlie’s stomach. The con- 



Page Four 


October 23, 1937 


versation continued as Bergen lifted Charlie’s shirt 
and the painter applied his brush. Bergen apparently 
was paying no attention to what was going on, but 
the instant the brush touched his stomach, Charlie 
shuddered violently and screamed, “Don’t do that! 
It takes my breath away!” The painter nearly died 
from fright. And Bergen never even smiled. 

* * * 

ONE IN A DOZEN YEARS . . . 

OR twelve years I have been attending Hollywood 
previews. Last week for the first time I saw a 
preview audience in a film theatre dismissed and given 
rain checks because something went wrong with the 
projection apparatus. It takes an experience like that 
to remind one how efficient such machinery is. As 
we had not paid to get in, we could not ask for our 
money back, so Rob Wagner and I discussed the 
chances of success if we started a riot to get our gaso- 
line back, but a couple of men of average height got 
between Rob and me and I lost him, not, however, 
before we had agreed that if the thing were going to 
happen every twelve years it eventually would be- 
come monotonous. 

* * * 

STRANGE CASE OF A YOUNG ACTOR . . . 

O N a visit to New York five or six years ago, I 
caught the first night of Charles Hopkins’ produc- 
tion of The Roof, by Galsworthy. The perform- 
ance which impressed me most was that of a young 
English actor, and judging by the reviews I read next 
morning, the same performance impressed the lead- 
ing critics. Again in New York about two years later, 
I saw part of Ziegfeld Follies, and told my com- 
panion that the male half of an American song-and- 
dance team looked astonishingly like a young Eng- 
lish actor I saw play a heavily dramatic role in the 
Hopkins production. My companion remembered 
the name of the English actor; we consulted the pro- 
gram and decided it was just a case of physical re- 
semblance, as the dramatic actor certainly was Eng- 
lish and the Follies singer and dancer just as obvious- 
ly American. Not long after that I saw the picture 
So Red the Rose, directed by King Vidor, and was 
impressed by the performance of a young fellow, ob- 
viously a Texan, playing a Texan part. The strange 
thing about it was that he looked astonishingly like 
the other two fellows — the American song-and-dance 
man and the English dramatic actor — but the Texan 
accent was too authentic to be turned off or on at 
will, so the picture fellow could not be either of the 
others. So I reasoned. But the Texan cowhand was 
the two other fellows. I learned of it only this 
week, my informant being a man who worked with 
King Vidor on So Red the Rose. His real name is 
Robert Cummings and he is a young player under 
contract to Paramount. 

Versatile Young Fellow . . . 

C UMMINGS has appeared in several Paramount 
pictures I have reviewed. When I first saw him 
on the screen I wrote that he was destined to go far 


in pictures. Performances in little productions in 
which he appeared have convinced me he is one of 
the most brilliant of the current crop of aspirants for 
stellar screen honors, an opinion which Paramount 
apparently does not share with me. And when I re- 
call what I saw him do on two New York stages, I 
am more than ever convinced that my prediction of a 
brilliant screen career will be fulfilled. Paramount has 
scouts out searching for talent when it has on its 
studio payroll a young actor whose record proves him 
to be one of the most accomplished actors available 
to pictures, but whom we have not seen in a part 
which would give him an opportunity to bring him- 
self sharply to our attention. I do not know Cum- 
mings personally. I must meet him and get the com- 
plete story. All I know is that he tried to get a job 
on the New York stage at a time when it was think- 
ing in terms of English plays and players; that as 
young English leading men were in demand, Cum- 
mings went to England, learned by contact to be an 
Englishman, gave himself an English name — some- 
thing with “Stanhope” in it, if I recall it correctly — 
broadcast through the mails to New York play pro- 
ducers that he was coming to America; found on ar- 
rival that seemingly every producer wanted him; 
Charles Hopkins won him — and the first night he 
went on in The Roof was the first time in his life he 
had faced an audience. And next morning Cum- 
mings’ name — that is, the name he was using at the 
time — went on the marquee. How he became one of 
New York’s outstanding song-and-dance men I do 
not know. But I do know that if I were a picture 
producer and had him on my payroll, I would cash 
in on him by developing all his possibilities. 

* * * 

PUBLICITY DEPARTMENTS, ATTENTION! . . . 

f ROM Detroit comes a note from Jack Hurford, 
manager of the Fox Theatre there, which expresses 
his satisfaction with the Spectator, and then he 
writes: “Attached you will find a tear-sheet from 
one of the Detroit papers containing a story from the 
Spectator, September 18th issue, dealing with the re- 
cording of 100 Men and a Girl. Possibly if the 
studio publicity departments would issue more stories 
like this in their press books, instead of the routine 
store tie-ups and dry readers, the exhibitor would oc- 
cupy more news space on his feature. Keep up the 
good work.” 

* * * 

HER LOSS OF POPULARITY . . . 

D AILY VARIETY two or three weeks ago re- 
ported an interesting case of the dwindling popu- 
larity of a young character woman. It said that at 
one picture house fifty-one women in one evening 
turned away from the box-office upon receiving an 
affirmative answer to their question as to whether the 
young woman was in the cast of the feature, and 
that at another house the same thing happened in 
the case of twenty-one women. At the Fox West 
Coast office other house managers turned in similar 
reports. The young character player referred to is 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Five 


Martha Raye. Variety attributed her loss of popu- 
larity to the publicity given her recent divorce. If 
that were the cause, there would be an alarming 
dwindling of attendance all along the line, for the 
divorces of many other young screen players were 
given about the same kind of publicity as that ac- 
corded Martha’s. I am not an authority on divorce 
publicity, but I could see nothing in the headlines 
which made the Raye-Westmore untangling revela- 
tions particularly unsavory. As a matter of fact, 
most of the house managers were of the opinion that 
Martha had screamed herself out of popularity, and 
that is something I predicted in the Spectator nearly 
a year ago. She was presented as a freak, and thus 
far in the history of the screen, no freak has possessed 
anything more than temporary box-office value. In 
Martha’s case, the stoutest ears eventually will resent 
the assault made upon them by her unmusical shout- 
ing. Paramount should know that. 

Screen Art Always Box-Office . . . 

RODUCERS can scoff at screen art and protest 
that picture producing is a business and nothing 
else. The business is one of selling screen art, and, in 
the final analysis, the degree in which the laws of 
screen art are reflected in a film creation will be the 
degree in which the creation will bring the customers 
to the box-office. The screen is basically a silent art. 
Silence was the element which earned it worldwide 
popularity in such an amazingly short time. Since it 
became noisy, a million dollars must be spent to 
bring in as much money as a quarter-million-dollar 
picture brought in in the silent days; Martha Rayes 
are being paid big salaries for going crazy on the 
screen; huge spectacles costing fortunes are created — 
all such expedients are resorted to to achieve what a 
simple bit of honest screen art could achieve at quar- 
ter the cost. The Spectator subscription list is in- 
creasing so rapidly each issue has a considerable num- 
ber of new readers. For those who have not read 
previous issues, I repeat what older readers have read 
so often: I do not advocate a return to wholly silent 
pictures; I advocate only that the camera should be 
the main story-telling medium and that the micro- 
phone should be used in a solely supplemental man- 
ner; that never should mechanical sounds be recre- 
ated to disturb the peace of picture houses; that the 
screen should present neither audible speech nor me- 
chanical sound which the imagination of the audi- 
ence could supply. A machine shop would be an in- 
teresting place to visit if it were not for the noise. 

* * * 

JACK BENNY AND BOX-OFFICE . . . 

T various premieres I have caught the closing 
scenes in Artists and Models, and every time I 
have seen Jack Benny at work I have become more 
convinced that Paramount would be doing itself a 
good turn if it presented him in a few smart comedies 
devoid of song and dance specialties. Jack is the per- 
fect screen actor, which, according to the Spectator’s 
conception of screen acting, means he has an ingratiat- 
ing personality and the intelligence to adapt it to any 


part he is called upon to play. He does not have to 
act. His sense of humor, the suggestion of meek ac- 
ceptance of the role of victim of circumstances, the 
easy manner in which he captures the sympathy of the 
audience, and, above all, the real intelligence he 
brings to the job, would make him an outstanding 
box-office player who would not have to be presented 
in a setting of chorus girls, rhythm orchestras and 
dance ensembles. The secret of making the maximum 
amount of money out of a picture, is to keep its cost 
down to the minimum which marks the line economy 
cannot cross without making itself apparent enough 
to interfere with box-office quality. Jack Benny is 
strong enough to hold up a picture which does not 
have the added cost of great sets and spectacles. 

* * * 

BOTH ARE DOING WELL . . . 

HEN I reviewed Dead End, I termed it Sam 
Goldwyn’s “magnificent mistake.” I thought it 
too somber to achieve popularity. In the big houses 
where it is first showing it is proving a big box-office 
success. The Road Back, another which I thought 
missed its mark, is bringing in about the average 
business of the houses in which it is shown. How- 
ever, I do not take the box-office into account when 
I review a picture. I judge it from the standpoint of 
how well scenarist, producer, director and cast have 
developed all the values of the story material. 

* ^ * 

MENTAL MEANDERINGS . . . 

HE dogs make as much fuss when we return from 
a quarter-hour’s absence as they do when we have 
been away for half a day. . . . Would like to have a 
pipe like the one Lionel Atwill smokes in Lancer 
Spy; he lights it in every scene and never fills it once. 
. . . Laid down for a nap; no luck; the two dogs had 
a fight on me. . . . For a writer, I have a very small 
vocabulary; it would be much smaller if it consisted 
only of words I can spell. ... I think up most of 
these things while I am working in the garden; by 
the time I get inside I have forgotten all the really 
bright ones. . . . Interesting experience: an after- 
midnight tour from the top scenery loft to the lowest 
engine room of Radio City Music Hall, New York; 
amazed to discover all the physical ramifications of 
entertainment on such a large scale; across the street, 
on the way home, was a flower-shop window with 
a gorgeous orchid in it; I looked at the orchid a long 
time, then back at the Music Hall, wondering which 
was the more notable creation. . . . Bobby, our 
grandson, who spent the summer with us, has gone 
back home; on the edge of a pansy bed is a bright- 
red, iron fire engine, toppled on its side; we are leav- 
ing it there. . . . There is no finer manifestation of 
the better side of us than our wholehearted enthu- 
siasm for football when autumn comes. . . . West- 
wood Village marquee: Tonight: On Such a Night, 
Double or Nothing. . . . Will some Spectator reader 
about to visit England please call me up from Lon- 
don? The longest telephone talks I have made were 
between Hollywood and New York; I wish to ex- 





Page Six 


October 23, 1937 


pand at the expense of the expander. . . . Dogs have 
so much sense that if they could read the newspapers 
they would cease being man’s best friend. ... I think 
I have put my white flannels and sport shirts away 
for the winter, but at the slightest suggestion of co- 
operation from the thermometer I am ready to break 
out again. . . . John, head waiter at the Beverly 
Brown Derby, is putting in a garden; I am his floral 
consultant; design flower beds with forks, spoons, 
olives and crackers and John goes home and does 
them. . . . Just happened to recall that Robertson's 
dog place on the Boulevard never smells doggie. . . . 
Freddie, the spaniel, always got excited when saddle 
horses passed our place; peered at them through the 
gate: the other morning on our usual walk Freddie 
spied a horse in a field; I waited while he approached 
it slowly and suspiciously; finally horse and Freddie 
touched noses; now when saddle horses pass our 
place, Freddie yawns. 

* * * 

SOME LATE PREVIEWS 

CENTURY PRESENTS CANTOR. ET AL . . . 

• ALI BABA GOES TO TOWN, 20th Century-Fox; producer, 
Darryl F. Zanuck; associate producer, Laurence Schwab; 
director, David Butler; story. Gene Towne, Graham Baker 
and Gene Fowler; screen play, Harry Tugend and Jack Yel- 
len; photographer, Ernest Palmer; music and lyrics. Mack 
Gordon, Harry Revel and Raymond Scott; music director, 
Louis Silvers; dance director, Sammy Lee; art director, Ber- 
nard Herzbrun; film editor, Irene Morra; assistant director. Ad 
Schaumer. Cast: Eddie Cantor, Tony Martin, Roland Young, 
June Lang, Louise Hovick, John Carradine, Virginia Field, 
Alan Dinehart, Douglas Dumbrille, Maurice Cass, Warren 
Hymer, Stanley Fields, Paul Hurst, Sam Hayes, Douglas 
Wood, Sidney Fields, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Charles Lane, 
Raymond Scott Quintet, Peters Sisters, Jeni Le Gon, Pearl 
Twins. 

O NE of the finest bits of entertainment the screen 
has to its credit; by long odds the best picture in 
which Eddie Cantor has appeared, and my personal 
preference as the best musical-spectacle production of 
the season. Born in the fertile brains of Gene Towne 
and Graham Baker, with Gene Fowler to help de- 
velope it and Harry Tugend and Jack Yellen to make 
it into a screen play, the story is an ideal one for the 
medium in which it is expressed and the audience at 
which it is aimed. All our previous musical pictures 
had singing somebodies panting to produce shows on 
Broadway. They fairly smelled of greasepaint. In 
Alt Baba Goes to Town, Cantor takes an overdose 
of medicine, goes to sleep and dreams the story, 
dreams himself back across the centuries to ancient 
Bagdad, taking along with him and putting into 
effect there the New Deal and others of our quaint 
ideas about how a country should be run. The 
strength of a story which makes visual a dream, lies 
in the fact that its lack of logic as a story makes it 
plausible as a dream. When we see Eddie riding 
through the skies on a magic carpet, we cannot sit 
back and say it could not happen. Only a few nights 
ago my spaniel and I climbed a waterfall by grasping 
bits of foam. 


Of Great Visual Beauty . . . 

O NE thing you will bless Ali Baba for is its lack of 
a battalion of girls working out problems in 
geometry on the shining surface of a four-acre dance 
floor. And you will bless it further for its failure to 
present us with a group of comedians shouting wise- 
cracks at one another, and Martha Rayes screaming 
hot songs at you. As a matter of fact, there are no 
comedians in Ali Baba. All the characters take it 
seriously, and that is what makes it so funny. The 
ancient setting permits of gorgeous staging, and 
Bernard Herzbrun, art director, gave his imagination 
free rein in designing the various sets, while Gwen 
Wakeling and Herschel dreamed costumes which 
made possible the composition of scenes of spectacular 
beauty. In a picture of the sort photography plays a 
large part, and Ernest Palmer’s camera never failed in 
realizing the full artistic possibilities of the pictorial 
material at which it was aimed. To Laurence Schwab, 
associate producer, goes credit for a wonderfully well 
done job. There is just enough of everything; never 
for a moment does it drag, and as you leave the the- 
atre you are going to be saying, “Why did it end so 
soon?’’ rather than, as is usually the case, “Why did 
it go on so long?’’ You will get the impression you 
have seen a short and snappy picture, yet its running 
time is 80 minutes. 

Everything Refreshingly New . . . 

HE physical attainments of Ali Baba, its voluptu- 
ousness, its scenic backgrounds, its great mob 
scenes, its lack of suggestion of a restricted budget, 
are matched in effectiveness by its human elements. 
Its specialties are new. We have not seen in any other 
production the interpolated numbers which make this 
one so outstanding. Most of the entertainers are col- 
ored people, and never have we had others who ex- 
celled them in their various lines. And there is new- 
ness in the script also. It reflects a lively sense of 
humor in conception and execution, and the dialogue 
is decidedly clever. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel 
contribute four songs which are up to the high stand- 
ard set by them in previous screen productions. A 
feature of their work which I have noticed is that 
their lyrics are always about something, have literary 
and intellectual values which make them outstanding. 
More extended reference to the music of Ah Baba 
will be made by Bruno Ussher, the Spectator’s music 
critic, in a subsequent issue. Eddie Cantor, looking 
young enough to be his own son and spry enough to 
suggest the lopping off of even more years, never on 
stage or screen gave a better performance than he does 
in this picture. He is the story’s sole motivating force, 
everything is thrown to him, all the comedy lines are 
his, yet so skilful is he in handling his role, we never 
feel we are getting too much of him. Either he was 
in better voice than usual, or I had forgotten what an 
agreeable singer he is. 

Dave Butler's Good Work . . . 

HE various elements composing Ali Baba are blend- 
ed into a harmonious pattern by the skilled direc- 
tion of Dave Butler. It was a big job to tell smooth- 


Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


ly, and keep continuous our interest in, a story which 
stops at intervals to take aboard a musical interpola- 
tion; and it was no easy task to create and sustain 
the Oriental mood, to preserve its dignity, its cere- 
monious atmosphere, but Dave was equal to it. He 
was fortunate in having his film pass through the 
cutting room over which Irene Morra presides as film 
editor. It was a formidable task to turn out such a 
smoothly running film, and the results achieved are a 
tribute to Miss Morra's skill. Tony Martin is an- 
other to whom praise is due. His singing voice and 
his manner of using it always delights me. Roland 
Young, Alan Dinehart, Douglas Dumbrille — the 
whole cast, in fact, with but one exception, give us a 
collection of performances which leave no room for 
adverse criticism. The exception is Gypsy Rose Lee, 
playing under her own name, Louise Hovick, who in 
her regular work must have proven herself a better 
actress from the neck down than she does in Ati Baba 
from the neck up. 

WILL GIVE SATISFACTION . . . 

• LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN, MGM; producer, Harry Rapf; 
director, George Fitzmaurice; story, Helen Grace Carlisle and 
Marion Parsonnet; screen play, Charles Brackett, Cyril Hume 
and Richard Maibaum; photographer, Ray June; music score, 
Edward Ward; film editor, Conrad A. Nervig; assistant direc- 
tor, A1 Shenberg. Cast: Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, 
Robert Benchley, Helen Vinson, Monte Woolley, E. E. Clive, 
Mickey Rooney, Charles Judels, Maude Ebume, Harlan 
Briggs, June Clayworth, Chester Clute, Barnett Parker, A1 
Shean. 

HAT matters about this one is that it is enter- 
taining and should please all the audiences which 
assemble to see it. The critically minded might point 
out how it could have been made better, but we will 
let that go for the moment. Harry Rapf has filled 
Live, Love and Learn with production value, Cedric 
Gibbons and his staff having designed some particu- 
larly effective settings which Ray June has photo- 
graphed with the artistic impressiveness which long 
has distinguished his work with the camera. And 
while I am dealing with the visual aspects of the pic- 
ture I might as well add that in the persons of Rosa- 
lind Russell and Helen Vinson, the two girls most 
prominent in the story, we have beauty of face and 
form which also is easy on the eye. Much of the 
credit for the pleasing pictures the girls make goes to 
Dolly Tree, designer of the gowns they wear. The 
attire appealed to my untutored masculine eye as re- 
flecting the best in artistic good taste, but do not ask 
me now what the young women wear. I despair of 
ever getting far enough in a gown-appreciation course 
to be able to perform that feat of memory. The sum 
total of all my impressions is that this Metro produc- 
tion reflects credit on all the technicians who had to 
do with it, and among them must be included Conrad 
Nervig for intelligent film editing. 

Literary Mass Movement . . . 

HEN I see in the credits that five people had their 
fingers in the fashioning of a screen story, I won- 
der what would be the consequences if someone 


should yell “Author!” when the fade-out comes. If 
the five arose together to take a bow, it might be ac- 
cepted by the audience as the initial movement in a 
stampede to the exits, and that might have dire con- 
sequences. However, the danger was averted this 
time, not by lack of merit in the story, but because 
it is not the usual practice to ask the author to take 
a bow. The picture opens with a display of a whim- 
sical mood which prepares us for another of those en- 
tertaining, irresponsible comedies which are such 
good fun. But the mood suddenly changes to a seri- 
ous one and the story drags while the mind of the 
audience is adjusting itself to the slower tempo and 
becomes aware it is witnessing a serious social drama 
instead of the gay comedy it had been led to expect. 
In the final sequence there is a return to whimsy 
which is too brief to permit of the mental readjust- 
ment necessary to its full appreciation. It is a weak 
ending which does not send the audience away as 
satisfied as it would have been if the serious note had 
continued to the end. 

Rosalind Russell Outstanding . . . 

O F those in the cast, Rosalind Russell is entitled to 
chief honors. Her part is one of many emotional 
phases and she proves herself equal to all of them. 
To her good looks and good breeding she adds a fine 
sense of both comedy and dramatic values. Given a 
few more prominent roles in important productions, 
Rosalind Russell will develope into a big box-office 
favorite. Bob Montgomery’s efficiency is much in evi- 
dence, but his part permits only of the standard lead- 
ing-man characterization which he handles with his 
usual superficial dexterity which always makes me a 
witness of his joys and sorrows and never goes far 
enough to make me share them with him. Bob 
Benchley is an admirable comedian. Here he has a 
role which has an underlying serious note and he 
gives a really fine performance. Helen Vinson plays a 
vixenish school friend of Rosalind. The part as writ- 
ten struck me as being too brittle in its menace, and 
Rosalind’s reaction to Helen’s action seemed incon- 
sistent with the character which the former had estab- 
lished. Early in the picture, Rosalind, as character- 
ized, would have thrown Helen out on her ear, but 
the menace had to be maintained and Rosalind puts 
up with it even though we do not believe she would. 
E. E. Clive with his usual proficiency makes a little 
part play a big part in the production as a whole, 
and Monty Woolley, whom I cannot recall having 
seen before, also makes his presence felt. George Fitz- 
maurice gives excellent direction to the story as writ- 
ten, revealing both a keen sense of humor and full 
appreciation of the human values of the serious phases 
of his script. 

WORTHY BRITISH OFFERING . . . 

• FAREWELL AGAIN, London Films-U.A.; producer, Erich 
Pommer; director, Tim Whelan; story, Wolfgang Wilhelm; dia- 
logue, Ian Hay; photographers, James Wong Howe and Hans 
Schneeberger; music score, Richard Addinsell; music director, 
Muir Mathieson; Him editor. Jack Dennis; assistant director. 
F. Penrose Tennyson. Cast: Leslie Banks, Flora Robson, Se- 




Page [Eight 


October 16, 1937 


bastian Shaw, Patricia Hilliard. Anthony Bushell, Rene Ray, 
Robert Newton, Leonora Corbett, J. H. Roberts, Eliot Make- 
ham, Martita Hunt, Robert Cochran, Edward Lexy, Maire 
O'Neill, Wally Patch, Margaret Mofiatt, Gertrude Musgrove, 
Billy Shine, Alf Godard, Eddie Martin, Edmund Willard, Phil 
Ray, Janet Burnell, Jerry Verno, John Laurie, Vernon Harris. 

UITE a notable cinematic job, even though it is 
not a picture to attract large audiences in this 
country. But it is a picture which everyone in pic- 
tures should see — that is, everyone except Martin 
Quigley, publisher of Motion Picture Herald, be- 
cause it is propaganda for the British army and Quig- 
ley gets dreadfully annoyed when anyone even sug- 
gests the screen should carry a message of any sort. 
When viewed solely as an exhibition of screen tech- 
nique, Farewell Again proves a fascinating subject. 
It has no direct story to invite our attention; it 
has no hero, heroine, villain. It has no plot with its 
logical sequence of events, with effect always follow- 
ing cause. A regiment of British cavalry is aboard a 
troop ship bound home to England after five years’ 
service in India. The picture picks up the ship at 
Gibraltar, where a cavalry captain comes aboard and 
reports for duty. We journey with the ship on its 
four-day run up the coast of Europe to Southampton. 
Instead of the long leaves the men are anticipating 
after five years of the heat and dust of India, the 
situation in the Far East is so grave that officers and 
men have but six hours ashore before they again set 
sail for a distant outpost of the far-flung British Em- 
pire. That is the story. 

Great Human Document . . . 

ITH such story material Erich Pommer set forth 
to make a picture. Pommer, with a record be- 
hind him of having made a series of the greatest film 
productions ever to come from one man in Europe, 
made two attempts to duplicate in Hollywood the 
success he had achieved abroad, but our studio meth- 
ods proved too much for him. Now teamed with 
Alexander Korda, another great producer whose gen- 
ius also was not recognized when he was striving to 
accomplish something in Hollywood, Pommer has 
sent us a cinematic masterpiece it would profit us to 
study. Farewell Again is an emphatic demonstration 
of the truth of the Spectator’s oft repeated contention 
that the story is not the matter of chief importance 
in a motion picture, that what counts is the use made 
of all the elements of the production. This British 
picture starts with a series of isolated shots in which 
various characters are planted in London. Who the 
people are or what the inter-relationship of the shots 
is, we are not told, nor are there any clews upon 
which we can base a surmise. Then the camera goes 
aboard the crowded troop ship where we see the cav- 
alrymen, most of them single, some with wives and 
children. For four days we are shipmates of the 
soldiers, and gradually we become interested in them 
as a whole until we become conscious that we are 
witnessing the fashioning of a great human docu- 
ment consisting of a series of unrelated romances, 
dramas, tragedies and comedies, all woven expertly 
into a fascinating pattern. 


Tim Whelan's Good Direction . . . 

NOTHER Hollywood expatriate, Tim Whelan, 
directed Farewell Again. Tim never got far over 
here. I remember having praised some of his first at- 
tempts and predicting a future for him, just as I had 
sung the praises of Korda and Pommer, and now I 
confess to a feeling of fiendish glee as I take advant- 
age of the opportunity Farewell Again gives me to 
pay tribute to their craftsmanship. Whelan was 
given a crowded ship and an even dozen little human 
incidents, important to the audience only in the de- 
gree in which he enlists our interest in them, and has 
given us an intensely human picture containing one 
of the finest collection of performances it ever was 
my good fortune to see. The strength of the scenes 
comes from their repression. Players speak naturally, 
behave naturally and in no scene do we get an im- 
pression that we are looking at actors. The whole 
thing is a little too fine for our average audiences 
which view screen entertainment objectively. Most 
Americans are not interested in anything happening 
to a British cavalry regiment or in a picture whose 
cast does not include some established American 
players, but those who can enjoy fine screen crafts- 
manship for its own sake will find Farewell Again a 
highly satisfactory picture. Certainly no American 
production has given a finer husband-and-wife por- 
trayal than that of Leslie Banks and Flora Robson; 
and never have we had a nicer, sweeter romance than 
that of Sebastian Shaw and Patricia Hilliard. If no 
lump comes to your throat when Banks, as the colonel 
of the regiment, quietly waves farewell to the wife 
who he knows will die as a result of a lingering ill- 
ness while he is serving his country on the other side 
of the globe — if such a scene, presented as beautifully 
as it is presented here, cannot move you, then Fare- 
well Again is not for you. It is showing at the Four 
Star Theatre. 

WESTERN BECOMES INTROSPECTIVE . . . 

0 HOLLYWOOD ROUNDUP, Columbia release of Coronet 
picture; produced by L. G. Leonard; directed by Ewing Scott; 
screen play by Joseph Hoifman and Monroe Shafi; dialogue 
by Ethel La Blanche; Mack Wright, production manager; pho- 
tographed by Allen Q. Thompson; film edited by Robert Cran- 
dall; art direction by F. Paul Sylos; musical supervision by 
Morris Stoloff; sound recorded by Thomas A. Carman; Harve 
Foster, assistant director. Cast: Buck Jones, Helen Twelve- 
trees, Grant Withers, Shemp Howard, Dickie Jones, Eddie 
Kane, Monty Collins, Warren Jackson, Lester Dorr, Lee Shum- 
way, Edward Keane and George A. Beranger. 

Reviewed by Bert Harlen 
WESTERN with a sense of humor is the spec- 
tacle presented by Buck Jones’ new film, Holly- 
wood Roundup. It turns in upon itself, so to speak, 
and views with a candid eye the props and processes 
by which pictures of its very kind come into being. 
It even now and then takes a playful poke — or are 
they always playful? — at the said props and pro- 
cesses. As the film opens, we are introduced to a 
typical Main Street theatre, with blatant posters in 
the front, tense youngsters in the front rows, and all. 
On the screen is flashing one of those sensational 






Hollywood Spectator 


Page Nine 


trailers, in which exciting epithets emerge in a min- 
ute state from the black void and rush to such gigan- 
tic proportions that they farely hit one in the face. 
Presently the Western idol appears, riding like all 
get out and dispersing a generous rain of bullets over 
his shoulder, all of which impresses the audience 
mightily. The next sequence, however, its locale in 
Hollywood, shows the idol, Grant Withers, bouncing 
in his saddle at the end of a support suspended from 
a truck. A pretty ugly picture is drawn of the fellow 
in actuality. Not only is he vain, overconcerned with 
a powder puff, but he is disagreeable, inclined to 
drink, scheming and cowardly. He is, in short, the 
villain. Buck Jones, who, as his double, has done 
all his stunts anyway, eventually achieves the star- 
ring position himself, the powder-puff hero’s down- 
fall coming about when he tries to usurp the praise 
for capturing a band of bank robbers which rightly 
belongs to Buck, and does not get away with it. 

But Is Still a Western . . . 

HE satire, though sometimes amusingly trenchant, 
is never subtle, and does not serve to raise the film 
above the level of a glorified “horse opera.” Nor was 
it intended to, the picture being designed, as Jones’ 
former pictures have been, for the type of audience 
represented at the opening of the film. They will find 
Hollywood Roundup as exciting as its predecessors, 
and having an added interest because of its commen- 
tary on picture production. It is interesting to specu- 
late upon what attributes or circumstances must be 
responsible for Buck Jones’ long and still flourishing 
career as a top-ranking Western star, a career during 
which numerous contemporaries have come and gone 
from the silver screen. For one thing, I think he 
epitomizes the man of the West as few other players 
have done. Manly, of staunch moral standards, of 
simple manner, indeed rather plain, inclined toward 
seriousness, resourceful, if not nimble-witted, essen- 
tially honest and well-meaning, and not too good 
looking, he presents a figure which millions of farm 
men, laborers, and children in the small towns can 
recognize as a type representative of them, and into 
whose experiences they can readily place themselves. 
Moreover his acting, if never subtle, has always been 
characterized by sincerity, winning for his portrayals 
interest and sympathy. I suspect, too, that Jones has 
been unusually level-headed in managing his business 
affairs, as well as his private life. He fits snugly into 
his part of the patient and well-meaning double in 
Hollywood Roundup. 

Ewing Scott's Direction Good . . . 

LSO well cast is Helen Twelvetrees, appearing as 
a film star who has lost footing and finds herself 
cast in a “horse opera.” Very effective is her scene 
wherein the president of the company breaks the 
news to her in his office, and she bravely fights back 
the tears. The prexy explains that the film is not 
really a “horse opera” but an “ourdoor special,” 
which drew laughs from the picture-wise preview 
audience. We hope to see more of her. Grant Withers 
is capable as the movie hero, a part similar to that he 
did on the stage in Boy Meets Girl. Shemp Howard 


shows himself a first-rate comic as the harried and 
vociferous assistant director. Dickie Jones gives a 
spirited account of the actress’ kid brother, and Eddie 
Kane and Monty Collins are among others who are 
competent. An outstanding bit of work, imaginative 
and executed with admirable precision, is a comic in- 
terlude by George A. Beranger, as a movie aspirant 
demonstrating his wares. Ewing Scott, always a de- 
pendable and intelligent director, has kept the story 
moving along at a good pace, and reveals an eye for 
comedy in the telling. The original story and screen 
play were by Joseph Hoffman and Monroe Shaff, 
with Ethel La Blanche doing dialogue. 

RICH IN SITUATIONS . . . 

# 45 FATHERS, 20th-Fox picture and release; directed by 
lames Tinling; screen play by Frances Hyland and Albert 
Ray; based on a story by Mary Bickel; photographed by 
Harry Jackson; art direction by Albert Hogsett; assistant direc- 
tor, Jasper Blystone; film editor, Alex Troffey; costumes by 
Herschel; sound by W. D. Flick and Harry M. Leonard; musi- 
cal direction by Samuel Kaylin. Cast: Jane Withers, Thomas 
Beck, Louise Henry, the Hartmans, Richard Carle, Nella Walk- 
er, Andrew Tombes, Leon Ames, Sammy Cohen, George 
Givot, Ruth Warren, Hattie McDaniel, Romaine Callendar. 

Reviewed by Robert Joseph 

AN IE WITHERS is getting to be a big girl now 
and Associate Producer John Stone wisely selected 
a story in which she would be called upon to do the 
dramatic work of a girl befitting her age. The days 
of sweetness and angelicism are happily over for little 
Jane, and from now on she will be moulding the 
lives of elders instead of growing up under their 
guidance. 45 Fathers presents the Century juvenile 
in a happy mixture of fun and pathos, comedy and 
serious drama, and the Withers charge does nobly for 
all concerned. Briefly, the story concerns itself with 
the adoption of a helion South African by a staid 
jockey and sporting club. Jane is taken into the cus- 
tody of one household in particular, that of Richard 
Carle. There, with the aid of two of her traveling 
companions, the Hartmanns, who take to domestic 
service in lieu of starving as vaudevillians, she con- 
founds the marriage of self-seeking Louise Henry and 
nice young man Thomas Beck. 

It Is Rich in Comedy . . . 

FTER several hilarious scenes, a courtroom se- 
quence in particular, Thomas Beck is saved from 
the machinations of Louise Henry and her schem- 
ing mother, Nella Walker. As are all of Jane With- 
ers’ pictures, 45 Fathers is a comedy, but this time a 
comedy graced and blessed with some rib-tickling 
situations and fine performances. The work of Sammy 
Cohen, as the faun dancing Professor Ziska, and of 
singing teacher George Givot, as Professor Bellini, 
are outstanding. The Hartmans score nicely as the 
running comedy relief and should take their bow 
for the courtroom episode. Richard Carle is his usual 
excellent self. Ivan Simpson, an oldtimer and an old 
hand at pictures, belies his experience, however, by 
moving his lips while other players recite their lines, 
as if he were coaching them. In one sequence in par- 




Page Ten 


October 23, 1937 


ticular in which he exchanges lines with Richard 
Carle, he silently recites every one of Carle's lines 
with his lips, much to the annoyance of the spectator. 
Thomas Beck, the reviewer would like to predict, 
will go far. His progress can be happily speeded by 
roles which will give a fuller opportunity to his obvi- 
ous talents. A full measure of credit goes to the 
Writers Frances Hyland and Albert Ray who adapt- 
ed the story from that of Mary Bickel. They have 
given 45 Fathers the benefit of clever writing and 
have charged it with colorful situations and good, 
snappy dialogue. Albert Hogsett deserves to be men- 
tioned for his lavish sets which were designed and 
executed in good taste. James Tinling gave the pic- 
ture the benefits of his careful direction. 

ITS PLOT RATHER SLENDER . . . 

9 THE LADY FIGHTS BACK, Universal; associate producer. 
Edmund Grainger; director, Milton Carruth; screen play. 
Brown Holmes and Robert T. Shannon; from the novel, 
"Heather of the High Hand," by Arthur Stringer; photogra- 
pher, Milton Krasner; special effects, John P. Fulton; art direc- 
tor, John Harkrider; musical director, Charles Previn. Cast: 
Kent Taylor, Irene Hervey, William Lundigan. Willie Best, 
Joseph Sawyer, Paul Hurst, "Chick" Chandler, Ernest Cos- 
sart, "Si" Jenks, Gerald Oliver Smith. 

Reviewed by Robert Joseph 
HANDSOMELY mounted and directed, adequately 
II enacted by a competent cast. The Lady Fights 
Back tries hard to get going, but never really man-* 
ages it. Much of the static situation can be traced to 
a slender plot which revolves about two battling fac- 
tions — Irene Hervey as the manager of a prosperous 
fishing lodge, and Kent Taylor, the young engineer 
who proposes to ease the club out of existence by 
diverting a plentiful lake catch. The battle seesaws 
with plenty of bufoonery and honest smacking to 
liven the show. Kent and Irene are alternately on 
top until a final compromise whereby the salmon, 
the fishbone of contention, are permitted to climb up 
Engineer Taylor’s dam by way of a specially con- 
structed salmon falls. 

Dialogue Stands Out . . . 

r HAT is pretty slender fare to connect some smart 
acting and some smarter writing. Kent Taylor 
enacts his role with the usual suavity that bespeaks 
better things to come. Irene Hervey is convincing as 
the mountain hellcat. William Lundigan gave a fine 
portrayal as the other young man. Ernest Cossart is 
his old reliable self. Willie Best is fine comic relief. 
Chick Chandler is too consciously Lynne Overman. 
Si Jenks is still the village rustic, and a good one, at 
that. But special mention goes to Scenarists Brown. 
Holmes and Robert T. Shannon who have given the 
story the obvious benefits of good, clear dialogue. 
Milton Carruth exhibits some of his film editing 
background in a careful selection of sequences and 
direction. The careful interchanging of process, stock 
and regular shots in the canoe exteriors were capably 
handled by an unnamed film editor. Scollard Maas 
should be mentioned for his striking salmon club 
sets. 


COURSE IN PICTURE MAKING . . . 

• SHE LOVED A FIREMAN, a First National picture; asso- 
ciate producer, Bryan Foy; original screen play by Carlton 
Sand and Morton Grant; directed by John Farrow; photogra- 
phy by L. Wm. O'Connell, A.S.C.; technical advisor. Captain 
Orville J. Emory; art director, Hugh Reticker; dialogue direc- 
tor, Jo Graham; assistant director, Elmer Decker; film editor. 
Thomas Pratf sound by Stanley Jones; gowns by Howard 
Shoup; music and lyrics by M. K. Jerome and Jack ScholL 
Cast: Dick Foran, Ann Sheridan, Robert Armstrong, Eddie 
Acuff. Veda Ann Borg, May Beatty, Eddie Chandler, Lane 
Chandler, Ted Oliver, Pat Flaherty. 

Reviewed by Robert Joseph 
AFTER She Loved a Fireman has hit the fourth 
/l and fifth run houses and is generally withdrawn 
from public release, Producer Bryan Foy might use 
the picture to instruct younger producers and direc- 
tors how to make a box-office B hit. From external 
evidences this picture was not an excessively expen- 
sive one, and it serves as an excellent example of what 
intelligent production can do to lift a B above its 
class. The direction by John Farrow and the note- 
worthy cutting by Thomas Pratt indicate a perfect 
harmony between the director’s chair and the movie- 
ola, which is something of a rarity in itself. Stock 
shots were judiciously paired with some good studio 
scenes and harmonized to give a startling and accept- 
able story. The story itself need not detain. Dick 
Foran as the smart-aleck ward heeler gets into the 
fire department. He flips his way through duty and 
only the steadying influence of Robert Armstrong, as 
the firehouse captain, and his sister, Ann Sheridan, 
and a warm friendship for Eddie Acuff bring the 
headstrong Dick around. 

Old Stuff Looks New . . . 

BASICALLY the plot is a repitition of what the 
•J audience has seen many times before. It was the 
problem of the writers, Carlton Sand and Morton 
Grant, to give their yarn some originality. They 
whipped some clear, smart dialogue into the story, 
refurbished the old wheelhorse with some fresh situ- 
ations, and ended up with a story that will arrest 
the attention. She Loved a Fireman is eloquent testi- 
mony to the stand that B pictures of a small budget 
need not suffer from sloppy production, direction, 
writing or acting. Dick Foran is refreshingly fresh. 
Eddie Acuff plays his comic role with restraint. Ann 
Sheridan shows promise of finer things to come. 
Robert Armstrong gives his usual dependable per- 
formance. But this victory belongs to Director John 



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Hollywood Spectator 


Page Eleven 


Farrow and Film Editor Thomas Pratt. Let it be 
said parenthetically that the reviewers might have 
been disposed to even more generous criticisms of the 
film if the Forum Theatre projectionist had taken 
pains to regulate his sound properly. She Loved a 
Fireman screamed. In spite of that, however, the 
songs written by M. K. Jerome and Jack Scholl im- 
pressed one as having both lyrical and musical values. 

FUNNY, IF YOU SPEAK SPANISH . . . 

• JALISCO NUNCA PIERDE, distributed in the United States 
by Azteca Films, Los Angeles, California; original story by 
Chano Urueta and Ernesto Cortaza; directed by Chana 
Urueta; assisted by Roberto Gavaldon; photographed by 
Gabriel Figueroa; art director, Jose Fernandez; sound, Jose 
Rodriguez; screen adaption, Chano Urueta; musical direction, 
Lorenzo Barcelata; songs by Pepe Guizar and Lorenzo Bar- 
celata; musical arrangement by Professor Manuel Esperon; 
dialogue collaboration, Guz Aguila; film editor, Jorge Bustos; 
producer, Luis Sanches Tello; estudios, Clasa. Star: Esper- 
anza Baur. Cast: Jorge Velez, Carlos Lopez "Chaflan," Pepe 
Gizar, Joaquin Pardave, Emma Roldan, Pedro Armendariz, 
Lorenzo Barcelata. 

Reviewed by Don Susano 
EXICAN directors display as much understand- 
ing of dramatic and comedy values as our own. 
Besides, Mexicans have a flare for screen acting and 
put across their characterizations with as much nat- 
uralness as if they were the people whom they por- 
tray. Jalisco Nunca Pierde is a western comedy of 
genuine Mexican ranch flavor as are its many tuneful 
cowboy songs. The singing is a treat, and the voices 
have a soothing quality of which we never tire. In 
summary, the daughter of a rich hacendado is in love 
with one of her father’s cowboys. The father, how- 
ever, has selected for suitor the son of his best friend. 
The suitor, in turn, loves another girl, the daughter 
of the village president. On the day of the wedding, 
in connivance with the village notary who performs 
the ceremony, the humble cowboy and the rich suitor 
turn into a double wedding what was to be a single 
wedding. Thus each marries the girl he loves. A 
hilarious scene results when the notary does his best 
to explain to the parents that, due to a slight error 
in signing the papers, the bride and the bridegroom 
were accidentally married to the two witnesses — the 
cowboy and the daughter of the village president. 

Told with Sense of Humor . . . 

HE whole production sparkles with droll humor. 
The small, warty-faced village notary carries his 
mien with the importance of a city lawyer. The 
wife of the henpecked village president puts on airs 
of good breeding and overworks her vocabulary of 
long words to impress her neighbors. Carlos Lopez, 
nicknamed “Chaflan,” plays to perfection a lovable 
peon who keeps the audience in titters with his re- 
marks. One finds such types in Mexico, fellows who 
are forever making the most unexpected but timely 
remarks. Chaflan” is middle aged, has a humorous 
pussy face, split by a walrus mustache, and his body 
movements have a graceful languor. No question that 
he will become a favorite in Spanish films. Another 
who promises much because of his quaint comical 


personality, is Joaquin Pardave who portrays the 
village notary. In other Mexican productions the 
camera has shown more flexibility as a story-telling 
medium, but in this one it is practically a stationary 
mirror due to the excessive dialogue. The technic, 
too, is reminiscent of the Spanish stage, depending on 
the dialogue to enliven the story. However, when I 
think in English the Spanish remarks which I 
thought so funny, they seem meaningless in most 
cases. But the same is true when we translate strictly 
American humor into Spanish. 

HARSH RUSSIAN REALISM . . . 

• THE THIRTEEN; produced by Mosfilm, Moscow, U.S.S.R.; 
director, Mikhail Romm; scenario, Ivan Prut and Mikhail 
Romm; camera, Boris Volcheck; musical score, Anatoli Alex- 
androv; military consultant, Vladimir Afonski. Cast: Ivan 
Novosoltsov. Elena Kusnina, Alexei Christinkov, Areen Fait. 
Andrei Dolinin. 

Reviewed by Don Susano 
E have grown so accustomed to the same half-a- 
dozen or so plots upon which most of our movies 
are based, that subconsciously we expect every picture 
to conform to these accepted formulas. No wonder 
that an unusual plot stands out like a needle larger 
than its own hay stack. The Thirteen is an unusual 
plot. But we have seen it before in the Hollywood- 
made The Lost Patrol. And whether or not the 
present story is an intentional copy of the former, 
the fact remains that it is an exact parallel even to 
its intensely dramatic treatment. In both stories a 
group of wandering soldiers take possession of a dis- 
puted water-hole in the middle of a sea of sand, miles 
and more miles from nowhere. Suddenly the enemy 
attacks in overwhelming numbers, but the soldiers 
manage to hold the water-hole. Nevertheless, one 
by one of the defenders are picked up by enemy 
snipers until but one remains, and he finally is res- 
cued by belated reinforcements. As I remember, The 
Lost Patrol was presented subjectively, the spectator 
sharing every tense moment with the besieged. The 
same is true of this Russian production. We feel the 
anxiety of the thirsty soldiers as they watch the drops 
of water, leaking at the bottom of the well, filling 
a small can. We feel the oppressive heat. We taste 
the sweet, cool water as they ration themselves to 
three mouthfuls each. And we are worried when we 
see them emptly the precious liquid into the machine 
guns to keep them cool. 

Is Intensely Dramatic . . . 

HERE are views of several seconds’ duration each, 
which convey a vivid struggle, although nothing 
alive appears in them. One sees merely stretches of 
undulating white sand lying still, like waves in a 
frozen ocean. But across them are the labored foot- 
steps left by the soldier who was sent after reinforce- 
ments. Like most Russian pictures, there is a news- 
reel harshness to the photography which makes for 
realism. In fact, the presentation of the story is in a 
realistic tone. One instance: The wife of the com- 
mander, a woman in her early thirties, who, although 
attractive, looks like an ordinary housewife — and 




Page Twelve 


October 23, 1937 


throughout the story remains as badly buffetted by 
the heat and the trying circumstances as the men 
themselves. Is this realism? Yes! Because she does 
not look as if she were in constant touch with the 
beauty parlor. I am sure the public will enjoy more 
stories based on the water-hole idea, providing they 
are as intensely dramatic as The Lost Patrol and The 
Thirteen. 

THIS HOLLYWOOD 

By Bert Harlen 

STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF . . . 

OW fraught with philosophical implications is 
the “back stage” of a motion picture set, that 
rough outer side, with its maze of supporting boards, 
coiling cables, props, and just plain dirt. I was im- 
pressed with this fact on a recent visit to Frank 
Lloyd’s Wells Fargo set at Paramount, where I 
watched with fascination the players of the film 
leave this workaday region and pass through a door- 
way onto the elaborately decorative, luminous set. 
Many times, back stage in a theatre, I have watched 
players leave the realm of canvas, props, and dirt, to 
go onto the stage, another realm, a region of trans- 
port and beauty for the absorbed audience. Always 
the spectacle has been glamorous for me. But on the 
motion picture set the fascination arising from the 
movement of players from one realm to another 
arises from a different source. Here they go into a 
region of illusion which exists not merely for a few 
hundred persons, but for millions; they go onto the 
stage of the world. Once through those portals they 
become transformed by the magic of the camera into 
shadows, which will convey thoughts, bring dreams, 
to others all over the earth. 

Power of Thoughts . . . 

HILE they are “behind the scenes,” however, they 
are only human beings, vivid and interesting, 
but subject to the same limitations of time and space 
as you or I, to all the cares and annoyances that flesh 
is heir to. Frances Dee, in billowing black crinoline, 
picks her way obscurely among the boards, cables, and 
props on the rear side of the set, stumbles slightly 
over a support, frowns, regains her balance, and 
gropes her way onward before reaching the door 
through which she goes to become a creature removed, 
a part of the fancies of multitudes. Joel McCrea, 
awaiting his cue to enter the dream world, sits on an 
old barrel, and is seen to expectorate vigorously into 
the maze of the back stage realm, an amusing ges- 
ture, since it is one he will never execute on the 
screen. They are real people in a real world. But this 
observation is advanced not for any purpose of dis- 
illusionment. In the birth of any thought it is not 
the physical circumstances giving birth to it that is 
important, but the magnitude of the thought itself. 
Thoughts, unseen, intangible, are mighty. They 
have come from dingy garrets and the musty con- 
fines of prisons to reverberate for centuries in the 
minds and hearts of men. And such power it is pos- 


sible for these thoughts, coming from the merely 
human persons and their earthy surroundings on a 
motion picture set, to exert. Principally because we 
see so much of its physical side, the production aspect, 
that is, we in Hollywood tend to look upon the mo- 
tion picture industry as a local activity. Though we 
speak glibly now and then of its widespread distribu- 
tion, we do not fully grasp its mammoth power to 
disseminate thought into the world. If we did, may- 
be we would send forth more fine thoughts. Maybe. 
* * * 

DR. MORKOVIN CONFIDES . . . 

PPARENTLY even the most profound ponderers 
of the cinema’s technical and esthetic problems 
have their weary moments, when their thoughts 
would gladly turn to a lighter vein. What the cine- 
matic intellectual prefers by way of mental diversion 
at such times, was so neatly phrased for me this sum- 
mer by Dr. Boris V. Morkovin of the University of 
Southern California Cinematography Department, 
that I still grin when I think of it. Through his 
auspices I was to address a group of teachers and 
students on one of the closing days of the Cinema 
Appreciation Convention being held at the univer- 
sity, and prior to going before the others I asked him 
what phase of Hollywood activity he thought I 
could emphasize in my talk that would most interest 
the assemblage. The doctor ran his tongue whim- 
sically along his upper lip and a twinkle came into 
his eye. He confided, “Intelligent gossip.” 


FROM LUGOSI FAN CLUB 

O the Editor: 

As the western representative of the Lugosi Fan 
Club, I should like to express the club’s appreciation 
of your article about mystery pictures in the Holly- 
wood Spectator of September 25, and more especially 
of the latter part, which suggests our favorite for a 
role which sounds very interesting. In general, we 
fans are immature, inarticulate, and (alas!) impecun- 
ious; hence we find great difficulty in making our 
opinions felt. Thus we realize that your article, in 
providing a public reminder of Mr. Lugosi, has done 
us a great service which we could not possibly have 
done for ourselves, and for which we are very grate- 
ful. We ardently hope that your article may help to 
bring about some action by the powers-that-be, and, 
sensing from your tone, that you too may be some- 
thing of an addict to our obsession, we make bold to 
beg your sympathy for and cooperation with our 
campaign for more and better Lugosi pictures. — 
Susan Elizabeth Moir. 


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Hollywood Spectator 


Page Thirteen 


IT'S NOT THE NATURAL THING TO DO! 


By Bruno David Ussher 

EWSPAPERS announce a studio will make Life 
of Caruso, also that Mario Chamlee has been sign- 
ed for the title role “because he resembles a little the 
great Italian tenor.” This is a typical statement. 
Chamlee is reported signed because — I presume his 
forehead — looks a little like that of his predecessor at 
the Metropolitan Opera. That Chamlee sings excel- 
lently and is a fine actor are not mentioned. Not a 
word is said that this Los Angeles-born tenor was one 
of the first Americans to score a sustained success in 
Germany in German opera. At this writing the Life 
of Caruso has not yet been inscribed on any produc- 
tion schedule. So far it is a case of a great event casting 
its shadow of publicity ahead. By the way, will the 
monkey-house incident be included in the “life”? 
Which reminds me that Pierre V. R. Key and Bruno 
Zirato have written a voluminous tome on the im- 
mortal Enrico. Postscript, a few days later: Chamlee 
is again mentioned for the title role. The story is still 
for sale. A second and third studio are “interested” 
and a fourth one may do it. 

And Also Victor Herbert . . . 

HAT has happened to Paramount’s Life of Her- 
bert plans? Gilbert Gabriel, the New York critic, 
who knew Mr. Naughty Marietta, did a fat script 
for Paramount. Expurgated actuality does not often 
make a good story. Life is fancier than fiction. So 
Mr. Gabriel has gone back to his Manhattan reviews. 
Paul Lannin, staff-conductor-composer during the 
heyday of Herbertian popularity, was to have collab- 
orated with Gabriel. Lannin has gone, too, probably 
to his Florida retreat. Apropos of Chamlee, it would 
seem to me that some studio should buy the rights to 
Henri Rabaud’s opera comique, Marouf or The Cob- 
bler of Cairo in which Chamlee is riotously amus- 
ing. The story is based on incidents from the Ara- 
bian Night’s Tales, but lends itself to a convincing 
combination of extravagance and realism. Done in 
color, with a hundred per cent music background, it 
would prove a wise undertaking for a wisely cour- 
ageous producer. The Cobbler of Cairo and all the 
rest of the personages are already so funny that slap- 
stick does not have to be laid on at all. The score 
might need a little cutting, but the book is excellent 
and the music is melodious, rhythmic and always 
carries either a note of caress or of laughter. Chamlee 
was starred in the title role during the Chicago sum- 
mer opera of 1930 and made such a hit, that, I am 
happy to recall, Director-General Merola of the San 
Francisco-Los Angeles civic opera association, pro- 
duced the work here at my suggestion. It is possible 
that costumes and designs are still in existence. 
Swarthout and Moore . . . 

UOTING the first paragraph of a publicity re- 
lease: “For scenes in The Yellow Nightingale, 

Gladys Swarthout will use the bed on which Pola 
Negri lolled when she made Deception with Emil 


Jannings several years ago.” What will Swarthout 
sing in this film of the rise and triumph of a vocal 
star? I do not know how specific Columbia Pictures 
has been in regard to dramatically momentous furni- 
ture, but stress is being laid on the arias and songs 
which Grace Moore sings in I’ll Take Romance. This 
newest of her productions will not be previewed in 
time for this article. It may be not amiss to mention, 
therefore, her vocal repertoire, which will be longer 
by two arias in the European releases of this picture. 
Miss Moore will be heard in Massenet’s Gavotte from 
Manon, Drinking Song from Traviata with Frank 
Forrest and chorus; the finale from the first act of 
Martha, an Italian folk-tune, La Franchesi, the Jewel 
Song from Faust, an aria from Giordano’s Andrea 
Chenier, while for good measure she has included 
also the hillbillie tune, I’ll Be Cornin’ ’Round the 
Mountain, and, of course, the theme-song after 
which the picture is named. This ballad is composed 
by Ben Oakland to lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. 
American audiences, however, will not hear the 
Chenier aria, and possibly not the Faust selection 
either. The former may be cut for reasons of length. 
As for the Jewel Song, is this florid music Miss 
Moore’s best metier? 

Early Grace Moore Picture . . . 

EVIVALS being the vogue, I attended the Col- 
umbia-Moore One Night of Love. In the light of 
what has followed in its wake, this first Moore opera- 
film (if one may call it such) impressed me more 
than when it was a novelty. Except for some pass- 
ing hokum, the story convincingly provides oppor- 
tunities for this vocal star. These episodes are han- 
dled consistently. Professional realism is observed in 
details. And has Miss Moore ever sung better and 
more fervently? The entire production is charged 
with a glamor and musical vitality all too few pic- 
tures radiate. The opera sequences, from Carmen and 
Butterfly, Pietro Cimini conducting and seen on the 
screen, stirred me, especially the latter. There is 
music-dramatic veracity of emotion. I am wonder- 
ing whether Miss Moore and Columbia generally, 
have really been given quite the credit they deserve, 
in view of what others have dared to do since this 
first Moore film. 

Columbia's Hollywood Recording . . . 

O NE is so apt to be swept off one’s feet by the tonal 
onslaught of the Stokowski orchestra in 100 Men 
and a Girl, but, dear reader, listen again to the main 
episodes and especially to the quite extensive operatic 
sequences in this first Moore picture. Stokowski went 
East for his best recordings: Columbia’s Harry Cohn 
hired the best men he could find and made superb 
recordings here! Or was it Victor Schertzinger, who 
directed the picture? Incidentally, in One Night of 
Love, it is Andreas de Segurola who finds a way of 
interesting a great vocal teacher in the poor American 
songbird. Quite recently, he himself took Deanna 






Page Fourteen 


October 23, 1937 


Durbin under his wings as a coach. Motion pictures 
will improve if everyone is given credit for what he 
composes, arranges or orchestrates. A laborer is not 
only worth his hire, but also worth his recognition. 
Too often a department head, or a “famed” com- 
poser is accredited with the ingenuity and skill of 
others. It is the custom, but contrary to the charm- 
ing Bing Crosby tune in Double or Nothing: It’s 
not the natural thing to do. 

LITTLE THOUGHTS ABOUT BIG PEOPLE 

AND VICE VERSA 

By C. F. G. 

r HAT bit of Black on the Supreme Court must be 
mourning for the late N.R.A. Court mourning 
used to be for the period of one year. Modern prac- 
tice is shorter. We hope. ... It would seem that Mr. 
Roosevelt is over sanguine about the restoration of 
the blue buzzard. It will take more than the avail- 
able supply of Black magic to revive that bird. . . . 
And we might as well get ready for those cartoon 
variations on the theme of eight black robes and a 
hooded white one which is Black. . . . Black, ac- 
cording to Webster: “Destitue of light, or incapable 
of reflecting it. . . . Enveloped or shrouded in dark* 
ness. Stained or soiled with dirt: unclean: foul. 
Quite devoid of moral light or goodness. Marked as 
hostile or unenlightened.” 

afc j|c jf; j|c 3|c 

Jon Hall is the grandson of Lovina, the very real 
Tahitian inn-keeper portrayed in White Shadows of 
the South Seas. 

* * * * * 

The Japanese are now offering photographic evi- 
dence of their asserted benign attitude toward the 
Chinese people. They are using propt-up bodies of 
Chinese civilians for bayonet practice. 

***** 

Jimmy McLarnin, after fifteen years in the ring 
without injury, was confined to his bed three weeks 
when a hefty stooge he hit on the chin during the 
filming of a scene, fell on McLarnin’s leg, almost 
unhinging his knee. 

***** 

Now that telegraph companies are using punctua- 
tion it might be a good idea for everybody, includ- 
ing columnists. 

***** 

With its loud-speaker equipped cars, the Los An- 
geles Police Department has taken another leaf out of 
the picture book. According to Feg Murray, Jona- 
than Hale’s car has been equipped this way for some 
time. We hope the police are as polite as Hale, who 
says, “May I pass, please?” and “thank you.” 
***** 

An Associated Press despatch from Chicago says: 
“A call for a positive and courageous draft of policies 
by a committee of distinguished Republicans . . . 
came from Herbert Hoover today.” So its going to 
be a draft of policies this time. To the best of this 
department’s recollection the last one was more in 
the nature of a draft of wind, and only productive, 
in so far as the party was concerned, of a bad case 
of wry neck. 



Hollywood Spectator 


Page Fifteen 


EDITORIAL POSTSCRIPTS 
He Praises Our Judgment . . . 

HAT EVER Bob Sisk’s opinion of my picture 
judgment may be, I do not know, but there is 
one thing he gives me credit for. “For a long time 
now I’ve been reading your recommendation of the 
Santa Maria Inn,’’ he writes me. “Recently my wife 
and I tried it and this note is simply to say that I 
now regard you as a reliable hotel guide. It is a 
charming place at which one should arrive, not late 
at night, but early enough in the afternoon to enjoy 
its atmosphere. And that’s what we’re going to do 

the next time we go there.” 

* * * 

From one Scotchman to Another . . . 

NE of the country’s leading educators, whose 
name, as Scotch as my own, I cannot reveal, as 
it was signed to a personal note to me, sizes up the 
Spectator in an interesting way: “I have gone over 
the last number with a dour and critical eye. It is a 
typical Scotch publication, fearless, realistic, critical, 
humored, and occasionally bull-headed and occasion- 
ally idealistic. That, to me, sums you and me up, I 
suspect, about as we find ourselves.” And from a 
Washington, D. C., subscriber who has much to do 
with the formation of public opinion, comes this: 
“I do not know how I could get along without the 
Spectator. The September 25th issue is swell, and I 
enjoyed very much your answer to Quigley.” 


STATEMENT OF THE OWNERSHIP, MANAGEMENT, CIR- 
CULATION, ETC., REQUIRED BY THE ACTS OF CONGRESS 
OF AUGUST 24, 1912, AND MARCH 3, 1933, of Hollywood Spec- 
tator, published weekly at Los Angeles, California, for October 
1, 1937, State of California, County of Los Angeles, ss. 

Before me, a Notary Public in and for the State and County 
aforesaid, personally appeared Howard Hill, who, having been 
duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that he is the 
Business Manager of the Hollywood Spectator, and that the 
following is, to the best of his knowledge and belief, a true 
statement of the ownership, management (and if a daily paper, 
the circulation), etc., of the aforesaid publication for the date 
shown in the above caption, required by the Act of August 24, 
1912, as amended by the Act of March 3, 1933, embodied in 
section 537, Postal Laws and Regulations, printed on the re- 
verse of this form, to wit: 

1. That the names and addresses of the publisher, editor, 
managing editor, and business managers are: Publisher, Hol- 
lywood Spectator, Inc., 6513 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 
California; Editor, Welford Beaton, 6513 Hollywood Blvd,, Los 
Angeles, California; Managing Editor, none; Business Man- 
ager, Howard Hill, 6513 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, Califor- 
nia. 2. That the owner is: (If owned by a corporation, its 

name and address must be stated and also immediately there- 
under the names and addresses of stockholders owning or 
holding one per cent or more of total amount of stock. It not 
owned by a corporation the names and addresses of the indi- 
vidual owners must be given. If owned by a firm, company, or 
other unincorporated concern, its name and address, as well as 
those of each individual member, must be given.) Hollywood 
Spectator, Inc., 6513 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California. 
Welford Beaton, 6513 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California. 
Howard Hill, 6513 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California. 

3. That the known bondholders, mortgagees, and other secur- 

ity holders owning or holding 1 per cent or more of total 
amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities are: None. 

4. That the two paragraphs next above, giving the names 
of the owners, stockholders, and security holders, if any, con- 
tain not only the list of stockholders and security holders 
as they appear upon the books of the company but also, in 
cases where the stockholders or security holder appears up- 
on the books of the company as trustee or in any other 
fiduciary relation, the name of the person or corporation for 
whom such trustee is acting, is given; also that the said 
two paragraphs contain statements embracing affiant’s full 
knowledge and belief as to the circumstances and condi- 
tions under which stockholders and security holders who do 
not appear upon the books of the company as trustees, hold 
stock and securities in a capacity other than that of a bona 
fide owner; and this affiant has no reason to believe that any 
other person, association, or corporation has any interest direct 
or indirect in the said stock, bonds or other securities than as 
so stated by him. Howard Hill, Business Manager, sworn to 
and subscribed before me this 29th day of September, 1937, 
Fred Nix, Notary Public in and for the County of Los Angeles, 
State of California (my commission expires March 2, 1941). 


ADVERTISEMENT 


DID YOU SEE WHAT DEATON 
SAID ADOUT RO-MARI? 

(Reprinted from the Spectator of August 14th) 

L ET us get away from pictures for a moment and for 
the benefit of those who may be suffering from it, dis- 
cuss Sciatica. For three months I had it and that means 
three months of pain. I wonder now how I refrained 
from snarling at every picture I reviewed, as going to 
previews was a painful experience. I tried the usual 
methods of treating the malady, but steadily grew worse. 
One day a friend bought me a bottle of RO-MARI. I 
never had heard of it, never had given a moment’s con- 
sideration to any proprietary medicine, always having 
thought their advertisements were bunk. But because 
my friend told me Lionel Barrymore and Hugh Walpole 
had endorsed RO-MARI publicly, I agreed to try it. 
The druggist, my friend informed me, suggested two 
bottles. I followed the diet outlined by the RO-MARI 
people and faithfully took the medicine at the times pre- 
scribed, and the two bottles did their work. I feel many 
years younger. I never before wrote anything of this 
nature; I know no one connected with the RO-MARI 
concern, have no selfish interest to serve. But I have had 
Sciatica, know what it feels like, and feel I should let 
other sufferers know how I got rid of it. I believe RO- 
MARI also is beneficial in the treatment of Arthritis, 
Neuritis and kindred ailments. 


HE importers of RO-MARI (it is compounded in Belfast, 
Ireland) modestly declaim that this enthusiastic essay by the 
conservative and dignified Mr. Beaton is really sump’in. Prob- 
ably we should not have been surprised, because it is in line 
with similar reports that come flooding in from all sections of 
the United States and Great Britain. But we were surprised, 
and tremendously pleased, and we thank Mr. Beaton for his 
courtesy in allowing us to use his name in our advertising. 

RO-MARI has become an international best-seller since it 
was first offered to sufferers in Great Britain some years ago. 
It is designed specifically to combat excess acid conditions so 
often an underlying cause associated with Arthritis, Sciatica, 
Neuritis, Lumbago, Gout and allied painful, crippling diseases. 
We do not even pretend that RO-MARI is a “cure-all,” and we 
make no guarantee of what it will or won’t do in any specific 
case, but we are proud that physicians on both sides of the 
Atlantic report definite improvement in between 75 and 90 
per cent of cases observed under RO-MARI medication. 

We earnestly believe RO-MARI offers definite hope to suf- 
ferers, and in that spirit we offer it to America. RO-MARI 
may be obtained at any of the BEST Drug Stores, Inc.; Caillet’s 
in Beverly Hills; Safety, Roosevelt, Standard Cut Rate or 
Peter’s Hollywood drug stores in Hollywood; Crawford’s in 
Westwood, and other leading pharmacies. Or you may com- 
municate with the Importers, American RU-MARI Company, 
655 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, California, Exposition 3151. 




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A Weekly 


Edited by WELFORD BEATON 


Twelfth Year 


Los Angeles, California — November 13, 1937 


Vol. 12— No. 2 1 


Radio Competition 
Theatres’ Problems 
Executive Shortage 
Laughs and Box-Office 
Broadcasting Music 
Class B Pictures 
Exhibitor the Goat 
Gene Autry’s Appeal 

... reviews ... 

HURRICANE ★ SECOND HONEYMOON ★ CHARLIE CHAN AT MONTE CARLO 
MANHATTAN MERRY-GO-ROUND ★ BULLDOG DRUMMOND'S REVENGE 
THRILL OF A LIFETIME ★ SWING IT. SAILOR ★ HIGH FLYERS 


ONLY PUBLICATION IN THE WORLD DEVOTED 
EXCLUSIVELY TO PRACTICAL FILM CRITICISM 



Page Two 


November 13, 1937 



'/Um. t/ve, 

EDITORS EASY CHAIR 


MENACE OF RADIO COMPETITION . . . 

EPORTS have it that some of the big advertising 
firms handling radio accounts are about to string 
together into two hours of air entertainment the pro- 
grams of various clients, the idea being to hold lis- 
teners-in for that length of time without turning 
their dials, or — and this is where it becomes a matter 
of concern to the film industry — without turning 
their radios off after one program and spending the 
rest of the evening at a motion picture theatre. The 
strength of radio as an advertising medium depends 
upon the size of its audience, as that of a newspaper 
or magazine depends upon the extent of its circula- 
tion. It seems to me that radio sponsors are making 
a wise move, an obviously wise one, and one that it 
should not be hard to make successful. The only 
weakness radio has now as an entertainment medium 
which holds our attention over a considerable stretch 
of time, is the on-and-off quality of its consecutive 
series of programs. If a full two-hour program is ar- 
ranged and divided into four half-hour periods, the 
four sponsors who join in its presentation will be as- 
sured larger audiences than they reasonably can ex- 
pect under the present policy of scattered half-hour 
programs without entertainment relationship to hold 
the listener’s continuous attention. A proposition so 
advantageous to those participating in it seems to be 
so reasonable that there should be no doubt of its 
ultimate accomplishment. 

Both Offer the Same Thing . . . 

O NE can realize with what misgivings the motion 
picture industry regards this radio development so 
fraught with danger to film theatre box-offices. But 
it is the motion picture industry itself which has 
made it possible for such competition to make alarm- 
ing inroads on its revenue. Of what does radio en 
tertainment consist? Words and music. Of what has 
screen entertainment consisted since the film industry 
changed over from motion pictures to talkies? Words 
and music. Then why should we pay to be enter- 
tained by words and music in a film theatre when 
without cost we can be entertained by words and 
music in our homes? The only thing the screen gives 
us and radio does not, is what our imaginations can 
supply — the visual elements of the settings in which 
the radio stories are told. If in a radio sketch we 
hear a character say, “Quick! Grab that piece of 


paper from the desk and drop it in the wastepaper 
basket,” the words would mean nothing whatever to 
us unless our imaginations functioned to make us see 
what we would see on the screen if the scene were in 
a motion picture. Why, then, pay to see it in a the- 
atre when we can get it for nothing in our homes? 
Music? As these words are being written, there is a 
radio, its dial within reaching distance from my chair, 
bringing me music from New York. When I want to 
hear music, why should I go somewhere and pay to 
hear it, when I can stay home, hear it for nothing, 
and go ahead with my work? All this makes it ap- 
pear as if the film industry is in a desperate position, 
that when the radio plans are perfected there will be 
no more motion picture audiences. And what can 
the motion picture industry do to avoid such a fate? 

Screen Has One Advantage . . . 

HE motion picture can do one thing which no other 
medium of entertainment can do: it can photo- 
graph motion at a central point and to all parts of 
the world send films which will recreate the motion 
on theatre screens. Thus, at what would be a low 
cost if the business were conducted intelligently, it 
can give the world a form of entertainment which 
speaks the universal language of pictures, the only 
form which can make the pictures move. The appeal 
of a picture is elemental: each of us sees in it what 
his imagination can fashion. It reduces all of us to 
an intellectual level: we follow it with our eyes and 
interpret it with our imaginations. The person with 
the most highly developed intellect can imagine more 
than a person of inferior intellect, but each gets the 
one hundred per cent possible to him. Both radio 
and the stage have purely intellectual appeal: one 
must pay attention to what is said, digest it mentally, 
before his imagination can function to make it com- 
plete as entertainment. The screen, therefore, must 
be the world’s greatest medium of entertainment, 
must appeal to the largest audience, and must be 
stronger than any competition which can be offered. 
It occupies a field into which competition can not 
enter. 

Screen Helps Its Competitors . . . 

UT the screen has deserted its own field, has aban- 
doned the form which gave it universal and ele- 
mental appeal and entered into competition with 




HOLLYWOOD SPECTATOR, published weekly at Los Angeles, California, by Hollywood Spectator, Inc., Welford Beaton, president; 
Howard Hill, secretary-treasurer. Office, 6513 Hollywood Boulevard; telephone GLadstone 5213. Subscription price, five dollars the year; 
two years, eight dollars; foreign, six dollars. Single copies ten cents. Entered as Second Class Matter, September 7, 1937, at the Po«t 
Office at Los Angeles, California, under the act of Congress of March 3, 1879. 


Hollywood Spectator 


radio which gives the public without cost what the 
film industry must manufacture at great cost. It even 
goes so far as to lend its talent to its competitor, to 
permit its competitor to use its story material. In- 
stead of selling its players’ voices only to its own 
audience, it gives them without cost to the radio 
audience. More and more all the time it is becoming 
a medium merely for permitting the radio audience to 
see the people whose voices it is hearing. By telling 
its stories in dialogue the screen is lowering the im- 
portance of its visual elements. I will grant you 
that if the radio audience had to pay as much for 
what it hears as the screen audience has to pay for 
what it hears and sees, the competition of radio enter- 
tainment would not disturb the film industry greatly. 
For the same amount of money a person naturally 
would buy both sound and sight in preference to 
sound only; but the crux of the situation is that he 
gets the sound for nothing, and as both forms of en- 
tertainment deal principally in sound, there is little 
reason why the public should pay so much for the less 
essential element. Now that radio is determined to 
enter into direct competition with the screen, there 
is real danger that pictures will suffer an audience loss 
which will stagger the film industry. 

There Is An Easy Way Out . . . 

UT if there were picture brains to function, the 
screen could turn up its nose at radio and go joy- 
ously on its way to greater glories and riches. It 
would do what radio can not do. It would give its 
audience more to look at and less to listen to; would 
go back to the form of entertainment which first 
captured the fancy of the world, and merely use the 
new element of sound as an adornment of minor 
importance. Unfortunately, however, the picture 
brains available lacks the power to function. Those 
who know what motion pictures are, work under 
people who lack such knowledge. Why even a pic- 
ture producer can not realize the public would rather 
look at a thing than listen to it, is one of the many 
bewildering things about this funny picture busi- 
ness of ours. Radio can draw the audience away from 
the kind of entertainment Hollywood is providing 
now, but the kind of entertainment Hollywood 
should provide could hold its present audience and 
enlarge it by making inroads on the radio audience. 
Before it can be made, those who control its making 
must know what it is and why it is desirable, knowl- 
edge not possessed by any of our present produc- 
tion heads. Ever since pictures went over wholly to 
sound, Hollywood has been drifting towards an im- 
passe, towards a crisis, and today apparently, is with- 
in hailing distance of it. 

Nothing Succeeds Like Failure . . . 

P ICTURES really are in a situation which threat- 
ens to become most serious. True, nothing has 
happened or will happen which could not have been 
foreseen. By predicting, long in advance, everything 
which has happened so far, the Spectator was put 
down as an alarmist, a common scold who was mad 
at the film industry in general and cared little what 


Page Three 


it said about it. Anyone who thought in terms of 
the true motion picture could reach no conclusions 
other than those reached by the Spectator and pub- 
lished in it. Some of the producing organizations 
are in a bad way now, and the whole industry is 
wondering where its future supply of top executives 
is to come from. Sam Briskin is dissatisfied with his 
RKO job and blames the company’s poor showing, 
while he directed its operations, on the lack of sup- 
port he was given; Bill LeBaron was reported dis- 
satisfied because he feels he will be credited with 
the indifferent showing of Paramount. Under Charlie 
Rogers Universal is drifting rapidly towards bank- 
ruptcy. Nat Levine brought Republic to its knees and 
when he lost his job there, Metro snapped him up. 
Other studios will compete for Sam Briskin’s ser- 
vices, and Charlie Rogers undoubtedly will head 
some other organization if he quits Universal or it 
quits him. And each shift of each of them will bring 
him an increase in salary, which justifies the four 
words at the head of this paragraph. 

Where Motion Is Needed . . . 

O AMOUNT of executive shifting will remedy 
the situation. Less motion in executive offices and 
more motion on the screen is the remedy needed. The 
studios need people who know what motion pictures 
are and will allow people under them to make them. 
Those whom I mention above did not fail because 
they made poor pictures. They failed because they 
made the wrong kind of pictures. They will fail 
again, and Zanuck and Wallis and the rest of them 
will fail, not because they do not know how to 
make the kind of pictures they are making now, but 
because they do not know the kind of pictures they 
should make. If when Sam Briskin first took over 
the RKO job, he had been equipped with real pic- 
ture knowledge, if he had known exactly what it is 
that the film industry has for sale, and had supplied 
his company’s customers with it, he today would be 
the biggest man in Hollywood, and all the others 
would be imitating him. There are plenty of execu- 
tives with ability to get things done. The trouble 
is that there are so few who know what should be 
done. If by any possibility they can get it into their 
heads that they should make motion pictures, they 
can make them, and the dark cloud hovering over 
Hollywood will drift away. Very few people who 
stick strictly to their own businesses ever have busi- 
ness worries. 

• • • 

PRODUCERS GIVE THEIR VIEWS . . . 

DWIN SCHALLERT in a recent Los Angeles 
Times quoted various picture producers in de- 
fence of class B productions. Accepting producers as 
authorities on the subject, we find that cheap pic- 
tures are necessary to the industry. One producer 
claims they are necessary as a basis of comparison; 
another claims they serve a useful purpose in enabl- 
ing exhibitors to show double bills. No exhibitor is 
objecting to B pictures as such. His complaint is that 
most of them do not please his audiences. To that 





Page Four 


November 13, 1937 


Hollywood can reply that he pays only five dollars 
in some instances for a class B production. Far be it 
from me to pose as one qualified to argue convincing- 
ly with such an august personage as a motion picture 
producer, but will one of them tell me how it be- 
comes good business for an exhibitor to pay even as 
little as five dollars for a picture that will drive cus- 
tomers away from his house? I realize producers can 
quote an authority to support their view. In David 
Harum they will find this bit of wisdom, which ap- 
plies equally to exhibitors and audiences: “A few 

fleas is good for a dog: kinder keeps him from wor- 
ryin’ about being a dog.” And there is something 
in the underworld which might apply: “Never give 
a sucker a break.” The exhibitor is the sucker. By 
the film industry’s method of selling its pictures, he 
must take the bad with the good, and as the B pic- 
tures are sold before they are made, producers have 
become more interested in their cost and the speed 
with which they can be turned out than they are in 
the degree of entertainment quality they attain. 

Exhibitors Are the Goats . . . 

O ONE can object to classification of pictures as 
A’s and B’s when the classification is based solely 
on cost. What concerns exhibitors and audiences is 
the poor quality of the B’s. With so many A pic- 
tures becoming bad by accident, there is no reason 
why producers should turn out more by design and 
offer as an excuse that they are merely B’s. Today 
the product as a whole is causing exhibitors concern, 
and if we trace the trouble back to its source, we find 
it lies in the producers’ habit of thinking in terms of 
money instead of entertainment values. Each pro- 
ducer is trying to out-spend the other. When Room 
Service, the New York stage play, went on the mar- 
ket for screen material, producing organizations be- 
gan to bid for it more for the fun of the thing than 
on the basis of what it was worth, and RKO won 
the game, the other players throwing down their 
hands when Radio raised the bet to $225,000 of its 
stockholders’ money. Of course, the play as screen 
material is worth perhaps only $5,000, but it was 
good fun. When the picture is offered exhibitors, 
the big price asked for it will be based on the cost 
of the story, not upon its merits. The exhibitor in 
Deadwood, South Dakota, will be asked to pay a 
large sum for the picture because some people in New 
York and a few other cities saw the play. The quar- 
ter-million dollars wasted on the story will come 
back to the company in two ways: It will be assess- 
ed against exhibitors, and the budgets of a flock of 
RKO class B pictures will be trimmed a little finer. 
But it is not small production budgets from which 
class B pictures are suffering now; it is small produc- 
tion brains. I have not yet seen a class B picture 
which would not have attained class A entertainment 
rating if all its potentialities had been realized. 

* * * 

TWO MINDS AND ONE THOUGHT . . . 

F ROM an interview with Leo McCarey in Variety 
(New York), October 27: “The day will come, 
he optimistically insists, when you can cast Emma 


Lilch and Hank Tennenessi in the leads and be suc- 
cessful, if you’ve made a good picture.” From the 
Spectator, October 30: “Given the same script ( The 
Awful Truth), the same director, the same produc- 
tion and supporting cast, Sophie Glutz and Joe 
Doakes could have played the leading parts and the 
picture in the long run would have done about the 
same business it is doing now.” 

* * * 

GARBO, LOUELLA AND HEDY . . . 

ETRO, we are told, is to apply the Garbo system 
of publicity to Hedy La Mar, one of its recent 
foreign importations. To date, as nearly as I can 
judge by what I read in the papers, the only thing 
the system has to its credit is the scorn of Louella 
Parsons. Louella, who, with an equally scornful re- 
gard for the dictates of ordinary modesty, permits 
herself to be introduced on the air each week as the 
“first lady of Hollywood,” apparently has a tough 
time sustaining her dignity as such in face of Metro’s 
blunt refusal to permit one of her staff to interview 
Hedy and give her some nice publicity. To put the 
Metro publicity department in its place, Louella ex- 
presses herself on an Examiner front page and gives 
Hedy far more publicity than the department would 
have been instrumental in securing if it had permit- 
ted the Parsons representative to see the illusive for- 
eigner. So, as it appears to such an innocent bystand- 
er as myself, the problem of getting a lot of publicity 
for Hedy — at least, in the Hearst papers — is one of 
trying to keep Louella from getting within hailing 
distance of the young person. However, I understand 
Hedy is a gregarious girl, a good mixer, one who likes 
to lead a normal life. If so, Metro may as well sur- 
render to Louella now. The Garbo treatment can not 
be a success when applied synthetically. It was suc- 
cessful with Garbo in spite of the publicity depart- 
ment, not because of it. It is a matter of history that 
Metro publicists declared to high heaven that Garbo 
would not get anywhere as a screen favorite because 
she refused to talk to newspapermen. And she became 
the most publicized person in pictures. 

* * * 

OUTLOOK IS NOT BRIGHT . . . 

O N the whole, this picture business is a funny one. 

It employs an Irving Berlin or a Jerome Kern to 
write a song for one of its pictures. Before the pic- 
ture is released, it hands the song to radio stations and 
it goes on the air. When the picture has its first show- 
ings in the big cities, the song is still new enough to 
have some entertainment value. By the time the pic- 
ture reaches its main market, smaller cities, towns, vil- 
lages, the song is so worn out that radio orchestras no 
longer play it because the public no longer wants to 
hear it even for nothing. But the poor exhibitor has 
to ask his customers to pay to hear it in his house. 
When the customers come out, they make a kick to 
the exhibitor and the exhibitor writes to the Spectator 
and asks if something can not be done about it, and 
the Spectator writes back no, not until the film in- 




Hollywood Spectator 


Pag* Five 


dustry becomes wholly sane and that there is no in- 
dication as yet that the process of developement of 
complete sanity even has begun. When, if ever, it be- 
comes sane, it will not permit one bar of music or one 
line of lyric in any one of its songs to be heard any- 
where except in the picture in which it belongs. But 
the outlook is not promising for the exhibitor. An 
industry crazy enough to permit the radio broadcast 
of a condensed version of a new picture, is too crazy 
to develope sanity except by a long and slow 
progress. 

* * * 

WE DISCOVER MR. GENE AUTRY . . . 

HEN I read again the proud boost of Republic 
that Gene Autry gets more fan mail than anyone 
else in pictures, and had added to it the numerous 
other things I had heard about this singing cowboy, 
I considered it high time that I rounded him up and 
found out what makes him click. I never had seen 
him either on or off the screen, which meant unjus- 
tified editorial neglect on the part of the Spectator, 
in whose columns the name of the screen’s chief mail- 
getter certainly belonged. So I asked Republic to let 
me see one of his pictures and it showed me Boots 
and Saddles, his latest. Now I am a Gene Autry fan. 
I could see what makes him click. He has person- 
ality, masculine charm; is of the rugged, outdoor 
type; gentle, though he-mannish; has the suggestion 
of laziness which makes athletic vigor attractive, and 
the grace of movement characteristic of those who 
live near nature. Autry is part of the Western plains, 
part of the outdoors, a human animal whose habitat 
is where few humans are. Honesty, sincerity, pa- 
tience, loyalty, forebearance are revealed in his voice 
and actions as the qualities, more than just his fea- 
tures, which make him a manly handsome man. He 
does not ride his horse; he becomes part of it the 
moment he throws a leg over the saddle. And he has 
exactly the kind of singing voice we would expect to 
hear, when he begins to sing, a manly voice with a 
drawl in it and understanding back of it. 

Republic's Great Opportunity . . . 

EPUBLIC is not doing right by its Gene, if I 
may judge all his pictures by the one I saw. Nor 
is it doing right by its exchequer in aiming him only 
at the market already established. Without the sac- 
rifice of even one among the many millions of fans 
he has now, it could add to them many more mil- 
lions who live in the big cities in which Autry pic- 
tures are not shown. He is one star who has every- 
thing which appeals to every kind of audience. As a 
matter of fact, Westerns belong inherently more to 
Broadway than to Main Street. The small town 
people have outdoors of their own; New York people 
have none, yet all the standard Westerns take their 
outdoors only to the small town people. Boots and 
Saddles is too small a picture for a star so big. It gets 
its entertainment value from Autry’s personality and 
its vigorous action, but it is not a picture for the big- 
gest theatres. A little more care, and a little more 


time in making it would have qualified it for a 
Broadway run. Of course, one silly thing in it would 
have to be eliminated if Republic ever hopes to widen 
the scope of the Autry market, to get intelligent pic- 
ture patrons to accept him seriously as a leading star. 
It is the practice of offering him as Gene Autry play- 
ing Gene Autry. Calling a screen character by the 
name of the actor playing it is so absurdly childish, 
so contrary to every law of screen art, so foreign to the 
very essence of screen entertainment, that I wondered, 
when I viewed Boots and Saddles, if Autry ever 
would get far in a studio which thought the practice 
a wise one. 

* * * 

WHAT PRICE LAUGHTER? . . . 

MONG scripts I have read recently was one given 
me by an associate producer in one of the major 
studios. In talking it over with him after I read it, 
I told him he should eliminate one scene as it would 
disturb the harmony of the picture. He thought I 
was wrong, and decided to shoot the scene and see 
how it looked in the completed picture. I dismissed 
the matter from my mind, did not think of it again 
until my producer friend called me up one morning 
last week. “You were wrong about cutting out that 
scene,’’ he told me. “We had a sneak preview last 
night; went over big, and the scene you wanted us 
to throw overboard got the biggest laugh. You see, 
I was right.’’ I told him I had advised the elimina- 
tion of the scene for the very reason he gave for re- 
taining it — because I knew it would get a laugh, 
that I had laughed when I read it, and the laugh 
had come in the wrong place. “Laughs are what put 
pictures over,” he contended. “There is no wrong 
place for a laugh.” I have not seen the picture yet, 
but in the script the story was a moderately serious 
social drama, with a few legitimately amusing spots. 

If They Belong, Is What Counts . . . 

ANY pictures pay a big price for the laughter they 
provoke. Audience response to a given scene is 
not the gauge by which its right to be in a picture 
can be judged. What matters is its relationship to 
the picture as a whole. In the script I read, the drama 
had been developed consistently enough to establish 
the picture’s mood, had become serious in what, let 
us call, situation A. It was followed abruptly by 
situation B, the one I questioned because it made me 
laugh when I read it; but I could not see what it had 
to do with anything which had preceded it. Situa- 
tion C, again abruptly, took up the drama where A 
had left it, and the mood which A had developed had 
to be developed again, and in the rest of the script 
there was nothing in any way connected with the 
comedy in B. I wrote in a recent Spectator that a 
picture’s mood is what gives it continuity of audi- 
ence interest. A serious picture’s strength as entertain- 
ment is not established by the laughter it causes. 
What counts is the consistency with which it holds 
the interest of the audience in the narrative as a 
whole. “But it got ’a laugh,” is the weakest argu- 
ment which can be advanced in defence of a scene’s 






Page Six 


November 13, 1937 


right to a place in a picture. The only measure by 
which it can be judged is the degree in which it sus- 
tains the mood of the production. A common studio 
practice is to “clock” the laughs at a preview and to 
judge a picture’s merits by the total number. That 
is all right in the case of a comedy, but is all wrong 
in the case of a serious drama. In the latter case the 
matter of importance is whether the laugh provoking 
scenes are legitimate parts of the picture as a whole. 
* * * 

PUBLICIST IN THE MAKING . . . 

OBEY, our eight-year-old grandson, apparently 
is destined to become a noted film press agent. 
Overheard him telling a playmate that he could fly 
over cities with a fish pole, line and hook, and snatch 
waffles out of windows of houses and eat them while 
in flight. A mind like that should go far. 

* * * 

LITTLE PICTURE CAN LEAD THEM . . . 

HEN Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo (reviewed 

on page ten) is shown hereabouts, it would be 

worth a visit by those who write and who direct 
motion pictures, as well as those who produce them 
and all others who think dialogue is the most im- 
portant element in screen entertainment. Like all 
other pictures made in Hollywood, the Chan series 
is aimed chiefly at English-speaking audiences. The 
Spectator for years has been protesting that a lot of 
the dialogue we are forced to listen to is unnecessary 
to our understanding of the stories told on the screen, 
that its contributions to the stories could be express- 
ed by action and facial expression to the greater sat- 
isfaction of the audience. Hollywood persists upon 
adhering to the opposite conviction, that the screen 
has become a medium of expression in dialogue, that 
audiences prefer to have the stories told to them in 
words. This last of the Chan pictures proves the 
Spectator’s argument even though it talks its way 
through every reel. It so happens that much of the 
dialogue is in the French language, which its pro- 
ducers know will not be understood by American 
audiences. Assuming you do not understand French 
and that you view the picture, you will not be able 
to follow a great deal of the talking. But at no 
place in the picture will you be in doubt about the 
meaning of the scenes or what story points are being 
put over in the foreign language. In other words, 
the scenes would have lost none of their story value 
if you had heard none of the talking, if they had 
been shot in silence. But if the contention of the 
producers has merit, if you must hear and under- 
stand every word uttered on the screen, Charlie Chan 
at Monte Carlo would be a total loss to you. But 
instead of its being a total loss, it will prove to be 
an entertaining little picture without any obscure 
spots. 

* * * 

MENTAL MEANDERINGS . . . 

S TARTED my writing this morning at two min- 
utes after eight. . . . One of my favorite songs 
which was radioed into temporary oblivion but 


which will go on forever: Good Night, Sweetheart. 
. . . When I hear a certain sound on the rear porch, 
I go out and pick Petruska, the kitten, off the screen; 
climbing up it is her way of notifying us that she 
wants to come in. . . . In a Hollywood shop, Oc- 
tober 29; Gail Patrick buying cards for Christmas 
presents; I am purchasing one office supply; “There!” 
she says to me, “I’ve finished my Christmas shop- 
ping.” And I never finish mine before Christmas 
Eve. . . . This seems to be vacuum cleaning day in 
my library; I’d better light my pipe and loiter for a 
spell in the garden; of course I could claim my writ- 
ing comes first, but I never yet have been able to get 
away with it. . . . Last winter, during the record 
cold spell, I bought four suits of neck-to-ankles 
underwear like Grandpa wore; come on, Winter, 
strut your stuff! . . . Here and there in the garden 
green shoots are coming up, all promises of an abund- 
ant narcissus crop even before the real advent of 
spring — a perfumed crop of delicate beauty, advance 
guard of summer bloom. . . . Now that Yale tied 
the score with Dartmouth in the last fifteen seconds 
of play, will you kindly refrain from further wise- 
cracks about the hero-and-the-last-minute habit the 
screen has? . . . Mrs. Spectator is happy; found 
something else needing painting; tall, narrow, vege- 
table cooler with a tier of small , slatted shelves; tak- 
ing such pains with it, one would think we were go- 
ing to entertain in it. . . . A newspaper item: “Thir- 
teen dollars a ton is granted sardine fishers.” I 
didn’t know there was a ton of sardines. . . . Drew 
up to the curb; instead of turning off the car radio, 
by mistake I turned it full on; at the top of its voice 
it screamed, “Hello, Sweetie Pie!” just as an austere, 
dignified, aloof woman was passing; she stopped as 
if shot, looked frigidly at me, but I decided to leave 
there and park somewhere else. . . . London Era 
tells me that an exhibitor broke his foot when he 
kicked a distributor in the heart. ... In spite of 
Martha Raye’s screaming on the screen and on the 
air, I still insist she’s got something both mediums 
can use. . . . Writes O. O. McIntyre, “For the past 
few years New York has been showing a growing 
cheese consciousness.” Which explains why some 
motion pictures do big business there. . . . Holly- 
wood Theatre marquee: 100 Men and a Girl, She’s 
No Lady; on behalf of my sweet little friend, De- 
anna Durbin, I resent that slam. ... In putting out 
the food for the birds just now, I discovered the 
Graham crackers I gave them are of the Sunshine 
brand, that they have in them brown sugar, fresh 
whole milk and pure honey, and that before serving 
the crispness may be improved by placing them on a 
pie pan and slightly warming them in oven; how- 
ever, the birds seem satisfied with them without all 
that fussing. ... It is late now; the house is quiet, 
the grate fire about done; the spaniel and the Pekin- 
ese have come for me; the last thing at night I find 
something in the refrigerator which Mrs. Spectator 
has fixed for me; beside it always is a plate of odds 
and ends which I toss to Freddie and Bo Peep as I 
have my midnight snack. Will you excuse us? 




Hollywood Spectator 


Page Seven 


SOME LATE PREVIEWS 

IS VERY BIG, BUT NOT GREAT . . . 

# THE HURRICANE; Samuel Goldwyn production ior United 
Artists; directed by John Ford; associate producer, Merritt 
Hulburd; from the novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Nor- 
man Hall; screen play by Dudley Nichols; adaptation by 
Oliver H. P. Garrett; art director, Richard Day; assisted by 
Alex Golitzen; musical direction, Alfred Newman; cinema- 
tographer, Bert Glennon; costumes, Omar Siam; film editor. 
Lloyd Nosier; sound recorder. Jack Noyes; special effects and 
hurricane staged by James Basevi; assisted by R. T. Layton; 
special effects photography, R. O. Binger; associate director. 
Stuart Heisler; South Seas photography, Archie Stout and 
Paul Eagler; assistant director, Wingate Smith; set decorator, 
Julia Heron. Cast: Dorothy Lamour, Jon Hall. Mary Astor, C. 
Aubrey Smith, Thomas Mitchell, Raymond Massey, John Car- 
radine, Jerome Cowan, A1 Kikume, Kuulei De Clercq, Layne 
Tom, Jr., Mamo Clark, Movita Castenada, Reri, Francis Eaai, 
Pauline Steele, Flora Hayes, Mary Shaw, Spencer Charters, 
Inez Courtney. 

G REAT pictorially, but not a great motion picture. 

Its story, which should wring your heart, will 
leave you cold. You will admire the way the story 
is told, glory in the beauty of much exquisite scen- 
ery, and be thrilled as you never before have been 
thrilled, by the hurricane which blows across the 
screen. A picture’s merits, however, can not be 
judged by our visual sense. What counts is the ex- 
tent our feelings have been stirred by what we see. 
The Hurricane story — ably put into screen play form 
by Dudley Nichols form Oliver Garrett’s adaptation 
of the book — has everything to arouse our deepest 
sympathy for the boy and girl about whom it is 
written; it should make us weep as we wept at the 
first Seventh Heaven, as we wept with Barbara Stan- 
wyck in Stella Dallas; it should bring lumps to our 
throats as acting bits in scores of pictures on a sea- 
son’s program bring them by making us participate in 
what we see on the screen. We do not participate in 
Hurricane. We sit back and look at it. We admire 
it as we admire a beautiful woman we do not know 
and do not care greatly to meet. When the terrific 
hurricane shakes the theatre, it has little human ap- 
peal to us. We wonder how Sam Goldwyn’s crew 
of technicians ever managed to create it. Briefly put, 
we are conscious all the time that we are looking at 
a motion picture. No one ever was made to cry by a 
motion picture. He cried because he imagined he 
was looking at real life, not at a motion picture. 

It Lacks Emotional Appeal . . . 

EGARDED objectively, Hurricane is a magnifi- 
cently conceived and achieved screen offering. 
Brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, and tech- 
nically a masterpiece, it fails to rate highly as a 
human document because the boy and girl whose 
tragedy motivated it, lack the inner power to make 
us feel for them as we should feel. Physically, Jon 
Hall is ideal for the part; spiritually he is unequal to 
it. Dorothy Lamour is a pretty little thing, but she 
does not reach our emotions. The two were un- 
yielding clay in the hands of even as great a moulder 
of emotions as John Ford. The more experienced 


members of the cast give excellent performances, but 
their parts are not designed to make bids for our 
sympathy. The story is one of the difference be- 
tween the Polynesian and Occidental conceptions of 
justice. The two young people typify the Polynesian 
conception, Raymond Massey the other. The theme 
is given abstract development, is brought out in dis- 
cussions, in what may be termed debates between 
Thomas Mitchell, superbly human as the champion 
of the South Sea Islanders, and Massey, as the 
representative of Occidental law and order. Neither 
side wins. A third party, the hurricane, brings the 
debate to an abrupt end without ending the con- 
troversy, without determining which viewpoint is 
the more justified. It is as if a total stranger entered 
a home in which a man and wife were quarreling, 
and terminated the controversy by beating up both 
of them. That would settle the fight, but not the 
controversy. 

We Have a Cockeyed View . . . 

ESPITE its weaknesses, Hurricane still is a pic- 
ture you should see. It will awaken you anew to 
the apparently limitless possibilities of screen tech- 
nique. The hurricane is the most amazing thing 
ever shown in a picture house, makes the earthquake 
in San Francisco seem like a paltry antic of a playful 
nature. You see a tropical island and its population 
blown way, roofs ripped off houses, sea overwhelm 
land, trees uprooted and tossed around like feathers. 
Hollywood at last has overtaken the adjective, 
“stupendous.” My personal opinion is that there is 
too much of it; you may wish for still more of it. 
In this review I am endeavoring to convey to you an 
impression of what you will see, not describing my 
view of it. My seat at the preview was so far up 
front and to one side that my view was rather cock- 
eyed. To me, the people on the screen were eight 
feet tall and their faces had the shape of elongated 
eggs. My view of it made me weary of the picture 
before it had run half its course, but I do not think 
it affected my judgment of the weaknesses I have 
enumerated, even though I am sore at Jock Lawrence 
for assigning me to such rotten seats. 

What Not to Do With Music . . . 

J O Merritt Hulburd, the Goldwyn associate pro- 
ducer, goes boundless credit for a magnificently 
done job in coordinating so successfully the various 
elements entering into such an ambitious presenta- 
tion. The assignment of James Basevi to the task of 
creating the hurricane gave him an opportunity to be 
the real hero of the production. Another technician 
whose work entitles him to recognition, is Lloyd 
Nosier, film editor. He faced a big task and accom- 
plished it brilliantly, presenting us with one of the 
finest demonstrations of cutting the screen has shown 
in a long time. Four camera artists contributed to the 
feast of superlative photography, Bert Glennon, R. 
O. Binger, Archie Stout and Paul Eagler. Music 
plays a big part in the production, but not always a 
wise part. In a picture which creates so much noise, 
the music should have been a soft background to its 




Pag* Eight 


November 13, 1937 


entire length. In some Hurricane spots there is no 
music; in other spots it steps to the front, gains such 
volume that it buries the story. Thus far in its pic- 
ture development, Hollywood has failed to grasp in- 
telligently an understanding of the place of music in 
screen entertainment. When it does, it will make its 
entertainment much more entertaining. Hurricane 
is a good example of what not to do with music. 
And, by way of ending this review, I would re- 
mark that, with the exception of his choice of seats 
for me, Jock Lawrence, Sam’s accomplished public- 
ity department head, gave us the most expertly man- 
aged Carthay Circle premiere I have attended in a 
decade of attending them. I hope Jock sometime will 
find himself in the same seats, and get cockeyed. 

SPARKLING ENTERTAINMENT . . . 

• SECOND HONEYMOON; Twentieth Century-Fox; directed 
by Walter Lang; associate producer, Raymond Griffith; screen 
play by Kathryn Scola and Darrell Ware; based on the Red 
Book magazine story by Philip Wylie; photography, Ernest 
Palmer, A.S.C.; art direction, Bernard Herzbrun and David 
Hall; set decorations by Thomas Little; assistant director. 
Gene Bryant; film editor, Walter Thompson; costumes, Gwen 
Wakeling; sound, Eugene Grossman and Roger Heman; mu- 
sical direction, David Buttolph. Cast: Tyrone Power, Loretta 
Young, Stuart Erwin, Claire Trevor, Marjorie Weaver, Lyle 
Talbot, J. Edward Bromberg, Paul Hurst, Jayne Regan, Hal 
K. Dawson, Mary Treen, 

S is the case with nearly all screen stories, you 
have seen this one in a score of other pictures, but 
I do not think you have heard it told so delightfully, 
produced more smartly, cast so appropriately, direct- 
ed more intelligently than you will find it in Cen- 
tury’s Second Honeymoon. It is most engaging en- 
tertainment, with a series of flawless performances, 
clever lines and amusing situations. I imagine, 
though, that it may cause the lifting of some eye- 
brows too proper to allow a sense of humor to lurk 
behind them. Tyrone Power makes love to Loretta 
Young, who is Lyle Talbot’s wife, and runs away 
with her before she is divorced from Lyle. True, she 
formerly was Tyrone’s wife, which might be re- 
garded as ameliorating circumstance but does not 
alter the ugly fact of Tyrone’s making love to an- 
other man’s wife. Being a tough old blade myself, 
one equipped with a readily adjustable sense of social 
values, the story of Secon